How to Change a Car Title in Washington State

A car title proves that you own the car and gives you the right to sell it. For this reason, you should never purchase a car without arranging to transfer the title into your name. If you buy a car from a dealer, the dealer will handle almost all of the title transfer paperwork. If you buy a car from a non-dealer, however, you and the seller will have to handle the paperwork. In the state of Washington, a car title is called a Certificate of Ownership.

Draw up a bill of sale at the time you buy the car. Sign it and have the seller sign it. A bill of sale simply describes the article being sold, names the buyer and the seller, and lists the sale price.

Ask the seller to produce the Certificate of Ownership.There is a place on the back for buyer and seller to state the odometer mileage and to sign when the title is to be transferred. State the odometer mileage, sign the certificate and have the owner do the same. If the car is at least 10 years old, there is no need to state the odometer mileage, but the buyer and seller must still sign the certificate.

Download and complete a Vehicle Certificate of Ownership application (see Resources). Since you will need to supply extensive identification about the car, you may need to refer to the seller's Certificate of Ownership to complete it. Present a photo ID to a notary public, and sign the application in her presence.

Download and complete a Certificate of Fact for Address Verification--Exception"form (if you have no Washington mailing address). This will allow the Department of Licensing to mail your certificate of ownership to your out-of-state address.

Prepare a check or money order in the amount of £10.0 (as of 2010) made out to the Department of Licensing.

Locate the nearest Vehicle Licensing Office (see Resources). Mail the check or money order, the Vehicle Certificate of Ownership application, address verification form (if applicable), seller's certificate of ownership and bill of sale to the office. You will receive your title within six to eight weeks.


An emissions testing report is required if you live in the urban area of Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish or Spokane county.


You must transfer title within 15 days after the date of purchase. Otherwise, you will be subject to a fine that starts at £16 and increases by £1.30 each day that you fail to transfer the title (up to a maximum of £65).

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Things Needed

  • Seller's Certificate of Ownership
  • Bill of sale
  • Vehicle Certificate of Ownership application
  • Odometer disclosure statement

About the Author

David Carnes has been a full-time writer since 1998 and has published two full-length novels. He spends much of his time in various Asian countries and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

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