What is a Car Title?

Car Insurance Tip!
How to Save on Car Insurance in Five Minutes
  • Car insurance costs more in 2024.
  • Don't let your rates increase.
  • Compare rates to save big!
Compare Rates Now Car Image

The car title is one of the most important documents you’ll have when you own a vehicle. 

We’ll cover all the important details about vehicle titles below. 

If you need to know how to get a car title, we’ve got you covered there too. 

What is a Car Title?

A car title is an official document that contains details about the vehicle itself and the legal owner. 

Essentially, the title serves as proof that you are the rightful owner of the vehicle. 

You’ll need the title in order to register, sell, donate, or trade-in your vehicle. 

The title is issued by the state in which the vehicle is bought and registered. Depending on your state, the title may be issued as a paper hard-copy or as an electronic title. 

It contains information about the owner including:

  • Their name. 
  • Their address.
  • Any co-owners listed on the vehicle.
  • Lienholder information, if applicable.  

It also contains information about the vehicle, such as:

  • The VIN. 
  • Year, make, model. 
  • Odometer reading when the title was issued. 
  • Sale price when the title was issued. 

It will also include title-specific information such as the state title number, issue date, and any title brands on the vehicle. 

A vehicle’s title is also how its history gets tracked. Both the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the title records contain information that make up a car’s vehicle history report. Over the lifetime of a vehicle, the title and VIN records will document:

  • Odometer readings. 
  • Major accidents and damages. 
  • Changes of ownership. 
  • Sales. 

What is a Pink Slip?

If you’ve watched movies like The Fast and the Furious or other racing flicks, you’ve probably heard the term “pink slip” or the phrase “racing for pinks.”

A pink slip is used as another word for the car title. 

In some states, like California, the certificate of title is often printed on paper with a pink tint to it. 

So, racing for pinks simply means that the winner gets ownership of the car – after the loser properly fills out and signs the odometer disclosure statement and the release of interest sections, of course. 

While it may add insult to injury, a bill of sale is probably a good idea too. 

Learn about how to fill out a title here. 

Where to Keep your Vehicle Title

As we stated above, the certificate of title is one of the most important documents you’ll have when you own a car. 

As such, the title should always be kept in a safe and secure place. 

Do not keep the title in the car. 

What does a car title look like? 

The exact appearance of the certificate of title varies slightly from state to state, but they will all contain the same information. 

While the term “pink slip” is still used today, titles are not always pink in color. Some may be blue, white, or other colors depending on the state. 

Titles typically feature:

  • Medium to heavyweight paper. 
  • The state’s official seal and/or water mark. 

Beyond the appearance, the title will contain sections with the following information:

  • Owner Information. 
  • Title details. 
  • Vehicle information. 
  • Lienholder Information. 
  • Odometer & release sections. 

Title Number & Details

First, when a title is issued, the state will also assign it a “title number.”

Like a VIN number or license plate number, the title number associates you and your vehicle with the title and the state’s database. 

The title will also include information about when the title was issued and how much fees were paid. 

VIN Number & Vehicle Information

Next, the title will contain information about the vehicle itself. 

It will include:

  • The 17-digit VIN. 
  • The body type, weight, and fuel. 
  • The year, make, model, and vehicle class. 

It will also include the odometer reading when the title was issued and the date of the odometer recording. 

Along with the odometer reading, it will also state whether or not there are any odometer issues with the vehicle. You can learn more about odometer discrepancies here. 

Owner & Lienholder Information

The title will also contain information about the owner or owners and any lienholders with interest in the vehicle. 

For each listed owner and lienholder, the title will include the names and addresses. 

If you’ve financed the vehicle, there will be a lienholder listed on the title. Before you’re able to remove the lien and transfer the title, you’ll need to pay off the loan and get a lien release. 

Title Release & Assignment Section

The title will also include blank sections which should only be filled out when you are transferring the title to another person. 

First, the title will typically include an Odometer Disclosure Statement section.

Next, you’ll see an interest release statement that the registered owner(s) will need to sign when selling the vehicle. 

Finally, there will be a blank section for the buyer or new registered owner to fill out. 

To get a new title in their name, the buyer will need to submit the signed-over and filled out title along with any other necessary documents to the state DMV. 

In some states, the title may also include a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability section that the seller can fill out, detach, and submit to the DMV to notify them of the sale. 

What voids a car title? 

Since the title is an official document, there are some things that can void it. 

The main things that will void a title include:

  • Altering information without an official change. 
  • Using white-out or crossing something out. 
  • Using a damaged or illegible title. 
  • Incorrect signatures. 

If something needs to be changed on the title, or if something was filled in incorrectly, you’ll typically need to request a duplicate through the state DMV. 

If two names are on a title, who owns the car?

A title can have multiple people listed as the registered owners. 

In this case, both people are technically owners of the car. Which means that they will both need to sign off on the registration and license plates for the vehicle. 

However, the rules for selling the car and signing over the title will depend on how the owner’s names are listed. 

If multiple names are joined with the word “AND,” both parties will need to sign the title to transfer it. 

If multiple names are joined with the words “AND/OR” or “OR,” only one of the listed owners will need to sign the title. 

In most cases, the ownership of the vehicle will pass to the surviving co-owner upon the death of the other co-owner.