Understanding the Difference Between Car Title and Registration

What is the difference between a car title and registration?

Although your car title and registration are essential documents for vehicle ownership, it’s important to remember that they’re distinctly different and serve unique purposes. While your car title proves ownership of the car, its registration allows you to legally drive it on public roads. 

A car title is a single document that establishes that you own the vehicle, while its registration usually includes obtaining license plates and officially registering the vehicle with the appropriate government agency, usually the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In this article, we’ll outline the differences between a car title and registration and explore why they’re important.

What is a car title?

A car title is a legal document that proves who owns a vehicle. This means that when you purchase a car, the title is transferred to your name establishing you as the rightful owner. A car title contains important information about the car such as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), make, model, year of manufacture and the owner’s name and address. 

Some states, called title-holding states, send you a copy of your title with both your name and the lienholder’s name to keep until you pay off the loan for your car. There are 41 non-title-holding states that require your lienholder to keep the title until the loan is paid off, then send you a copy. If you’re buying a used car, the title can also tell you whether previous drivers have ever totaled the vehicle you’re purchasing. 

There are different types of titles, which indicate the vehicle’s condition and your ability to obtain auto insurance for the car, including:

  • Clean title: This means there have been no reported accidents or damage involving the vehicle and no repairs have been needed.
  • Clear title: A vehicle with a clear title has been in an accident but has been repaired and passed inspection.
  • Salvage title: A vehicle with this type of title has been totaled and cannot be either insured or driven until it has undergone serious repairs.
  • Rebuilt title: A car with this title was rebuilt after severe damage. This means that a driver may be able to get liability insurance, but won’t be able to cover their own car.

What is car registration?

Car registration is a process that involves obtaining a license plate which is a legal requirement in most jurisdictions and serves as proof that the vehicle meets the necessary safety and emission standards. The process of registering a car involves informing the state you’re the owner of the car and obtaining a license plate and registration certificate from your local DMV. 

The registration certificate includes important information about the car, such as the make, model, year of manufacture and VIN. Your car registration will expire every one to two years. At that point you’ll need to renew your registration and will receive new stickers for your license plate or the window of your car. Depending on the state you live in, you might have to take your car for a safety or emissions inspection as part of your registration.

Why Car Titles and Registration are Important

Your car title and registration are both important pieces of information because they serve as legal proof of vehicle ownership and the right to legally drive and operate the car. The information they contain is crucial for obtaining and keeping auto insurance, financing and selling the car. Car registration is important for protection of not only you but others on the road.

  • Ensures vehicles are properly insured. You must provide proof of insurance coverage for the vehicle to register your car. This helps ensure all drivers are properly held financially responsible in the event of an accident.
  • Necessary for traffic enforcement. The license plate registered to a vehicle can help law enforcement identify the owner of a vehicle in the event of a traffic violation or crime.
  • Important for personal identification. The registration certificate contains the name and address of the car’s owner, which can be useful if there is a theft or other criminal activity.

SelectQuote Can Answer Your Questions About Car Insurance

When it comes to car ownership, both the vehicle title and registration are important. You’ll need auto insurance to obtain either document, and SelectQuote is here to help. Our experienced licensed agents can make the process easy by shopping from a variety of the nation’s highest-rated auto insurance carriers on your behalf. SelectQuote can shop policies from multiple companies in just a few minutes so you can find a policy that’s right for your vehicle, lifestyle and budget.

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