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The Difference Between Car Title and Registration

If you’re a vehicle owner and drive regularly, then you may already have your vehicle registration card or forms sitting in your glovebox. If not, then you should start doing so because driving without proper state registration is illegal. Carrying it is required to be able to use public roads which run pretty much everywhere. It’s sufficient to say that having your vehicle registered is a requirement for being able to drive. Another type of paperwork related to your vehicle that will be needed is the vehicle title. We’ll be getting into what a title and a registration mean for your vehicle and how they are used by the state to keep your car certified for safe operating.

What is a Vehicle Title?

Starting with the vehicle title, it is literally the first kind of paperwork you will encounter when owning a car. In fact, you will be issued a car’s title from a seller or dealer when you purchase it. The title functions as the legal document which states the owner of the vehicle. There are other types of vehicle titles that will be explained later on, but legal ownership is the standard one. A title for a new car can also be filed with the state’s DMV or DMV equivalent. Titles for vehicles with loans list the lienholders as the owners until the loan is paid off. In addition to the owner’s name, the title will also list the vehicle identification number (VIN), make and model, the type of title (will go over later), and the date it was issued.

What is Vehicle Registration?

This is what a police officer will ask you for, in addition to your license, whenever they pull you over. They do this regardless of the person because they must first check if the car is even able to be on the road in the first place. The registration process is one that takes place entirely at your state’s DMV or DMV equivalent. A car’s registration serves as proof that the driver has the certification to drive, own or lease a vehicle, and paid their registration fees. A card and license plate are issued to the driver and their vehicle. There is a sticker on the plate that expires every year or so, depending on your state, which must be renewed when the time comes. At times, you may see a car drive by with one of those temporary license plates. This is because they may have recently bought the car since some dealerships offer temporary registration for about a month after the purchase date. Already you may see the difference between registration and title, which only certifies the owner of the vehicle.

How do You Register Your Vehicle?

The best way to learn about something is by its practical application. While each state has its own DMV, the process that each driver has to go through to ensure their car is registered is pretty consistent. The first step is to always check your state-specific regulations regarding the matter before diving in.

After that, it’s time to start registering your vehicle:

  • Get auto insurance for your vehicle - 48 out of 50 states require their drivers carry a certain amount of auto insurance for their vehicle in order to be legally allowed to drive. You’ll be in charge of choosing the coverage type, coverage limits, and deductibles so long as they are greater than those required by the state. Some drivers with multiple cars are able to add another vehicle to their policy.
  • Pass the necessary inspections - Some states require incoming applicants for registration to have their vehicle safety features and emissions inspected.
  • Have all necessary documentation - Before starting the registration process itself, you must make sure you have all the proper documentation and paperwork. This includes the car title, auto insurance form, driver’s license, proof that you pay taxes and associated fees, the registration application form, and the bill of vehicle sale.
  • Complete registration form - This can be done online or in person. You’ll be asked to provide your VIN, driver’s license number, and plate number. A registration fee ranging from $20 to $150, depending on the state and car type, will also have to be paid.
  • Have registration card issued - Now your car is fully registered for use on the roads. The only thing left to do is receive your registration card, which you must carry with you in the car at all times -usually in the glove box.

What Are The Different Types of Car Titles?

A car title does two main things -list the owner of the vehicle and the condition it’s in. There are different types of titles that identify whether or not the car has been in an accident that can compromise the car’s functionality.

These different vehicle titles are:

  • Clean title - Cars with no reported accidents, usually new ones, are given clean titles.
  • Clear title - This type of title is given to cars that list only one person as the owner. New cars that are leased or financed through a payment plan may not qualify for this title.
  • Salvage title - Vehicles that have been labeled a total loss are given a salvage title. This means that the car’s functionality has been compromised, and it’s no longer safe or legal to be driven.
  • Rebuilt title - The only way to make a car with a salvage title driveable again is to get it a rebuilt title. This would mean getting all the damages with the salvage car fixed. Please note that cars of this nature are generally harder to insure. But at least they are certified to be road-safe again.
  • Bonded title - Some cars may not have a definitive owner or record of it. They must be issued a bonded title and a bond equal to the car’s value.
  • Dismantled title - This title is given to a car that is deemed totaled and will be taken apart.
  • Junk title - If a car simply can’t be repaired due to any damage, it will be issued a junk title. This isn’t when the repair costs exceed the car value, but when the car can’t be saved.
  • Lemon title - A car or any product can be labeled a lemon if they don’t function properly after the initial sale. A car can be issued a lemon title if it is new and something is wrong with it when it was bought.
  • Odometer rollback title - Every car title includes the odometer amount. Setting it backward is illegal. If the odometer is tampered with, the car will be issued a title saying so.

How is a Vehicle Title Transferred Between Owners?

The practice of vehicle titles is less of a hassle than registration because titles don’t expire. The only way a title can change is if it goes from salvage to rebuilt. So, the condition of the car is always known. But, what of the owner of the car? What if that were to change? Then, the title must be transferred between the owners. People personally selling their cars are required to do this. The new owner will take the original title to the DMV and be issued an updated one. The original bill of sale will also be needed, along with an odometer disclosure agreement that lists the car’s mileage.

What Will You Need First: Registration or Title?

Because the vehicle title has such information as VIN, year, make, and model of the vehicle, all of these are essential for the registration process. So, naturally, the vehicle title would come before the vehicle registration. Vehicle ownership is extremely important for any state DMV because it gives them an individual to associate the vehicle with. It also shows that if the car is on any sort of payment or leasing plan. In any case, most states do require that all applicants have proof of vehicle ownership, and that is precisely what a vehicle title is.

How Does a Title And Registration Tie Into Refinancing Your Auto Loan?

If you have a loan on your car, then a title and registration will be needed to refinance a loan in the event it’s needed. In the simplest of terms, refinancing a car is using an auto loan to pay off another auto loan. The new loan is usually given by a new lender. Many do this in order to receive lower interest rates, consolidating debt, and overall more secure refinancing so they can keep their cars and eventually pay them off. This also means there are still existing debts and payments on the vehicle that just last longer. There are some fees and costs associated with the process. A title and registration for the car would be absolutely needed in order for the new lender to give you a loan in the first place.

How Much Does a Car Title And Registration Cost?

The cost of registration has been previously mentioned in this post. Depending on the state, a car registration fee can run from $20 to $150. In Illinois, the base registration fee is $101. Senior drivers only have to pay $24, while electric car owners pay $35 for two-year registration as opposed to the standard one. At the same time, there are also fees associated with vehicle titles. Unfortunately, Illinois has one of the highest fees for a vehicle title at $150. That would result in just over $300 to properly title and register your car. A title fee can go from just over $10 to $100. Illinois and Wisconsin stand out due to their fees being over $150. The good news is, you usually only have to pay it once. In some states, the type of title can also affect the fee -a rebuilt title may cost more than a salvage title, for example.

Key Takeaways About Car Registration And Titles

By now, you should be familiar with the process and purpose of vehicle registration and titles. In the end, it all comes down to ownership and having a valid license plate with the state. For newer drivers, they would have to go through both. Drivers with vehicles of their own are expected to maintain their registration on an annual basis. These are those stickers you place on your license plate. In Illinois, these expire on the driver’s birthday. Other states may set their renewal time differently. It’s always best to stay on top of those dates and mark them down on your calendar.