In order to be recognized as the owner of a vehicle in Michigan, you must have a title in your name. Whenever ownership of a vehicle changes, the title must be transferred, which requires steps of both the previous owner and the new owner. Selling a car is not the only reason for needing to transfer a car title in Michigan. You might be gifting a car, or you might be inheriting one. In all cases, there are specific steps that need to be followed.

Steps for sellers in Michigan

If you’re selling a car in Michigan, there are several things that you’ll need to do to ensure that the buyer can transfer the title to his or her name. They include:

  • Complete the back of the title, including the car’s mileage, the date of the sale, the price, and your signature. If there is more than one owner, all of them must sign.
  • Give the buyer a lien release if the title is not clear.
  • Note that the state of Michigan highly recommends both the buyer and seller appear at the SOS office at the same time.
  • Note that if there is an outstanding lien on the car, the state does not allow title transfers.

Common mistakes

  • Not completing the information on the back of the title
  • Not providing a lien release

Steps for buyers in Michigan

If you’re buying from a private seller, it’s recommended that both you and the seller visit the SOS office together at the time of the sale. If that’s not possible, you have 15 days from the sale to transfer the title to your name. You’ll also need to do the following:

  • Make sure the seller completes the information on the back of the title.
  • Make sure to get a lien release from the seller.
  • Get insurance on the car and be able to provide proof of coverage.
  • If there will be more than one owner, they should all be present at the SOS office. If this is not possible, all absent owners must complete an Appointment of Agent form.
  • Take this information to the SOS office, along with $15 for the title fee. You’ll also need to pay 6% use tax on the price.

Common mistakes

  • Not getting a lien release
  • Not appearing with all owners at the SOS office

Gifts and inherited cars

The process for transferring the title on a gifted car is the same as outlined above. If the recipient is a qualifying family member, they do not have to pay sales or use tax. For inheriting a car, the situation is very similar. However, if the will is not being probated, the vehicle will be given to the first listed survivor: spouse, children, parents, siblings, or closest next of kin. If the will is being probated, then the executor will assign ownership.

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

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Transfer a Car Title in Michigan and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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