How to Transfer a Car Title in Washington

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Within the state of Washington, all vehicles are required to be title with the name of the owner appearing on the title itself. When ownership changes, whether because the vehicle was bought or sold, or it was given as a gift or donated, or if it was inherited, the title needs to be transferred to the new owner’s name. The state does require some specific steps to transfer a car title in Washington, though. In addition, you’ll need to make sure you work with a DOL vehicle licensing office, rather than a DOL driver licensing office, as they are different branches.

For buyers

Note that buying from a dealership negates the steps outlined below. The dealer will handle all of the title transfer processes. However, if you’re buying from a private seller, make sure to complete the following:

  • Get the original title from the seller and make sure it has been signed over to you.

  • Complete the Odometer Disclosure Statement if the car is under 10 years old. Note that this form can only be obtained from the DOL office, by calling the DOL at 360-902-3770, or by emailing titles@dol.wa.gov with a request for the form. This form is not available for download.

  • You need to complete the Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale with the seller.

  • Get a lien release from the seller.

  • Complete the Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application. Note that this form needs to be notarized, and must contain signatures for all new owners.

  • If you live in Spokane, Clark, Snohomish, King or Pierce Counties, you’ll need to complete emissions testing ($15).

  • Bring all this information with you to the DOL office, along with the $12 transfer fee. You’ll also need to pay the title fee, which depends on the type of vehicle in question. Note that you have 15 days to transfer the title. After that, additional fees apply ($50 initially, and then $2 per day).

Common mistakes

  • Not completing all the required forms

For sellers

For private sellers in Washington, there are several additional steps that need to be taken. These include the following:

  • Complete the form fields on the back of the title and sign it over to the buyer.

  • Work with the buyer to complete the Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale.

  • Make sure to report the sale of your car to the DOL. You have 21 days to do this, and you’ll need to pay a $5 fee to do it in person or by mail. It is free online.

  • Give the buyer a lien release.

Common mistakes

  • Not notifying the DOL of the sale

For gifts and inherited vehicles

The process required for gifting a vehicle is the same as above, with the exception that on the Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale, $0 is entered for the price. Note that the recipient of the gift will still need to pay both the title transfer fee and the title fee. The process is the same if you intend to donate your car.

If you are inheriting a vehicle, you will need to work with a DOL representative in person to complete the process, and may need to purchase new license plates, as well.

For more information about how to transfer a car title in Washington, visit the state’s DOL website.


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