Residents of Alabama who drive on Alabama public roads must obtain an Alabama title certificate for their vehicle in most cases. A title certificate proves ownership of the car, establishes that it is not stolen and allows the car to be sold. Procedures for applying for a title certificate are straightforward and simple, except in unusual cases such as titling a salvage vehicle.
Alabama requires every car of model year 1975 or later to be titled, unless the owner is a U.S. government agency or subdivision. Motor homes from the 1990 model year and later must also be titled.
The Alabama auto title administrator is the Department of Revenue, which delegates its authority to county license plate issuing officials, auto dealerships and certain financial institutions. Replacement titles are issued directly by the Department of Revenue.
To obtain a title, the applicant must submit the car's previous title certificate (or a manufacturer's certificate of origin in the case of a new car) and a filing fee of $15 plus small fees imposed by local authorities. Proof that the vehicle complies with safety, emissions and anti-theft regulations is required if any doubt exists regarding compliance with these regulations.
In Alabama, the holder of a lien on a car (normally the lender that financed the purchase of the car) does not hold title to the car. In certain other states, however, titles are issued in the name of the lienholder until the lien is paid off. An Alabama resident who drives a car titled in the name of an out-of-state lienholder is not required to obtain an Alabama title as long as the lien is still outstanding and the other state's law requires title to be held in the name of the lienholder.
A car that is declared a total loss by an insurance company will be issued a special title that includes a "salvage" notation preventing it from being issued licence tags or driven on Alabama public roads. In order to have the salvage notation removed, the owner must obtain a rebuilder's license, restore the car to roadworthy status, and have the car inspected by a state-certified inspector. Upon application, the salvage notation will be replaced with a "rebuilt" notation, which will allow it to be issued license tags and driven.