They say that everything's bigger in Texas, but as it turns out, the process of signing over a vehicle title is pretty similar to how it goes down in the other 49 states of the Union. The Lone Star state eases the process along by offering all the necessary paperwork, plus a few extra useful tools for free access online. But at the end of the day, you still need to do three things to sign over a vehicle title in Texas: Paperwork, paperwork and a little more paperwork.
Getting a Title in Texas
Before you can transfer a vehicle title to a new owner in Texas, your ride needs to have a vehicle title in the first place. If you're unsure of the title status, hop on over to the official website of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Here, among many other things, you can perform a title check – the state of Texas makes things easy for you by offering an online Title Check tool for a small fee. All you need is the vehicle identification number and your credit or debit card.
In the case that the vehicle title has been lost or destroyed, you need to fill out Form VTR-34, Application for Certified Copy of Title. In addition to being filled out and signed, this form requires a letter of signature authority from an agent of the vehicle's original lienholder. It's available for download at the Texas DMV's site, and can be handed over in-person or mailed (alongside a photocopy of your ID and a $2 mail-in fee by check, cashier's check or money order made out to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles) to the following address:
1601 Southwest Parkway, Suite A
Wichita Falls, TX 76302
If you turn in the Application for Certified Copy of Title in person, you'll expedite the process for a slightly smaller fee of $5.45 – in most cases, it's totally worth that $3.45 up-charge, especially as you may benefit from the added human element. Once you have the duplicate title in-hand, it serves the same function as the original title as far as signing over the car is concerned; you can sign the duplicate and use it to transfer ownership at a county tax office or local DMV.
Read More: How to Title an Inherited Vehicle in Texas
Transferring the Title: The Process
At the time of the vehicle's sale, the seller should hand over a properly signed title to the buyer. Make sure it includes the date of the sale and an accurate odometer reading. Alongside the title, provide a completed and signed copy of Form 130-U, Application for Texas Title and/or Registration, which you can download and print from the Texas DMV's website. This and the signed title itself are the two most important pieces of the puzzle for signing over a vehicle title in Texas.
For individuals, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles recommends going to your local county tax office with the buyer when performing an auto title transfer to make sure all the legal paperwork requirements are met. Both parties will need to bring along ID that meets Texas state requirements.
On the buyer's side, transferring a title at the county tax office helps ensure that the title being signed over is correct and informs you of any potential salvage or legal issues. Buyers are also free to use the Texas DMV's Title Check function online to scope out any issues affecting the car's value before buying.
The Texas DMV also requires you to provide proof of liability insurance when you title and register a vehicle, as well as a release of lien form if you're dealing with a vehicle that has yet to be fully paid off. If there's not a record of current inspection for the vehicle in the DMV's database, you'll need to provide a Vehicle Inspection Report, as well. The same goes for vehicles with registration that is within 90 days of expiration – they'll need a new Vehicle Inspection Report, too, which you can nab at any Texas Department of Public Safety Inspection Station.
When transferring the title, keep motor vehicle taxes and fees in mind, as they're due at the time of titling. As of 2019 rates, here's how they run:
- 6.25 percent of the taxable purchase amount, based on the higher value of the purchase price or the standard presumptive value (plus a 5-to-10-percent late payment penalty)
- $90 new resident tax
- $5 even trade tax
- $10 gift tax
- $65 rebuilt salvage fee
- 2.5 percent emissions fee on diesel vehicles made before 1996 that weigh more than 14,000 pounds
- 1 percent emissions fee on diesel vehicles made after 1996 that weigh more than 14,000 pounds
- $28 or $33 application fee for a Texas title (depending on your county)
- Applicable registration fees, normally $78.25 for vehicles and light trucks clocking in at up to 6,000 pounds
- $2.50 transfer fee
It's never a bad idea to budget a little extra, though. During the car title transfer process, you may also get hit by various charges like a vehicle inspection fee (normally up to $30.75), insurance verification fee (about $1), automation fee (also a buck) and other small transaction fees from the tax office or DMV, so don't get taken off-guard.
About Form 130-U
No other form is as crucial to transferring a vehicle title in Texas as Form 130-U, the Application for Texas Title and/or Registration. This vital form includes the following information, which is all clearly labeled and ready for you to fill out before signing over the title:
- Vehicle ID number
- Year, make, body style, model, main color and secondary color
- Texas license plate number
- Odometer reading
- Actual mileage, if different from the odometer reading
- Empty vehicle weight
- Carrying capacity (if any)
- Applicant type (such as individual, business, government, trust or non-profit)
- Applicant photo ID (attach a copy of your driver's license, ID card, passport, military ID or U.S. citizenship ID)
- Applicant's full name, address and phone number, plus the same info for any additional applicants
- Previous owner's full name, address and phone number
- Name and address of the renewal recipient, if it's different from the applicant
- Vehicle location address, if it's different from the applicant's
- Information about liens, including the lienholder's ID number, first lienholder name and contact info, and first lien date, if applicable
Form 130-U also contains a space for detailed information pertaining to the motor vehicle's tax statement and sales and use tax computation. Below that, both the seller and applicant must sign and date the form to validate it. The buyer then signs on the front of the title under "Signature of Owner or Agent" while the seller signs on the back, by "Signature of Seller/Agent." According to the Texas DMV, it takes about 20 business days to process a title application – after that, you should be good to go.
Titles and Dealers
Auto title transfers in Texas are generally more streamlined when purchasing from a dealership, as the dealer is required to file a title application on the buyer's behalf. While this saves you a trip to the county tax office, the dealership situation does come with a few unique wrinkles of its own.
For instance, licensed motor vehicle dealers in the state are not required to title the vehicle in the dealership's name immediately when you sell or trade in your vehicle. That means that the title stays in your name until the vehicle is sold – no matter if that takes weeks, months or even years. That's why it's especially important to file a Vehicle Transfer Notification with the Texas DMV as soon as you sell or trade in your car to a dealer (or at least within 30 days of the sale); as soon as the DMV gets the notice, you won't be held responsible for any violations committed with the vehicle. Similar to the Title Check tool, you can use the Texas DMV's Vehicle Transfer Notification tool online for a small fee.
Additionally, you'll most likely have to pay a titling fee (or a few titling fees) as part of your transaction at a car dealership. These vary per business, but expect to kick in a little extra.
Additional Title Transfer Rules
Car title transfers in Texas, as anywhere in the U.S., come with a few more rules, guidelines and quirks to consider. As you fill out that small stack of papers, don't forget the basics, like using blue or black ink (no pencils) and avoiding white-out, scribbles and other marks. In the Lone Star state, vehicles are required to be titled in the buyer's name within 30 days from the date of sale. This is a big deal for the seller, especially because failing to transfer the title could make the seller responsible for tickets, toll violations and even crimes committed with the vehicle while it's still in the original title holder's name. For the first 30 days from the calendar date of the sale, the vehicle buyer's insurance from another vehicle can be used for the recently purchased car.
If the vehicle being transferred has multiple liens, you'll need to attach Texas DMV Form VTR-267 to the Application for Texas Title and/or Registration paperwork. If the vehicle is purchased as a gift, you'll also need to attach Comptroller Form 14-317, Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer, in addition to the $10 gift tax. In the case that you're the surviving spouse selling the car of someone without a will, track down an Affidavit of Heirship for a Motor Vehicle (also known as Form VTR-262) to get the sale and auto title transfer process off the ground. When buying a car from another state, you also need to provide proof of paid sales tax.
If you're buying a vehicle in Texas as a representative for somebody else, you'll need power of attorney. In the case that you've submitted a Vehicle Transfer Notification and you're still getting parking tickets from the vehicle, it's time to submit a Form VTR-275, Request for Texas Motor Vehicle Information, to the DMV. This form should show the month and year the vehicle was transferred, potentially absolving you from guilt – and the associated fines – in traffic court. If the vehicle's sale occurs on a weekend and the seller removes the license plates and registration sticker from the car, you'll need a Vehicle Transit Permit from the DMV in order to legally drive the vehicle to the county tax office and make the title transaction official.
The Vehicle Transit Permit is good for only five days and only for the ride to and from the tax office – that means no joy rides, yet. Save those for the victory celebration when that title is officially in your name.
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: Buying or Selling a Vehicle
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: Get a Copy of Your Vehicle Title
- Ann Harris Bennett, Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar, Harris County, Texas: Transferring a Texas Title
- Travis County Tax Office: Title Transfers
- eTags: Texas DMV Title Transfer Guide
As a freelance writer and small business owner with a decade of experience, Dan has contributed legal- and finance-oriented content to diverse sources including Chron, Fortune, Zacks.com, Motley Fool and MSN Money, among others.