What’s the Difference Between a Vehicle’s Registration and Title?

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She works as an associate editor and writer for 4autoinsurancequote.com for over a year and enjoys creating content that offers expert advice on car insurance topics.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs...

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Reviewed byLeslie Kasperowicz
Former Farmers Insurance CSRhttps://res.cloudinary.com/quotellc/image/upload/insurance-site-images/4autoins-live/6ea5d860-leslie-kasperowicz.jpg

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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You may have heard two terms related to your vehicle: vehicle registration and vehicle title. What’s the difference between the two? Is there a difference between a vehicle’s registration and title? Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about the difference between a vehicle’s registration and title.

What is a Vehicle’s Title?

A motor vehicle title is a legal form that lists the legal owner of the vehicle. The legal owner could be a person or a business. There could be a single owner or multiple co-owners.

Some people call a vehicle’s title a pink slip. In some states, the title comes on a pink slip of paper.

Whatever color it is, the vehicle’s title shows who legally owns the vehicle.

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What is a Vehicle’s Registration?

Difference Between a Vehicle’s Registration and TitleA vehicle’s registration is different. A vehicle’s registration is required by your state of residence. The registration proves that you have officially registered your vehicle with your state DMV. It also shows you have paid any taxes or fees that were due.

Specific registration rules vary by states. Typically, however, when registering your motor vehicle, you will pay a fee and then receive a license plate and registration document. Some states use a sticker. The vehicle’s registration document or sticker proves that the vehicle is roadworthy according to state law.

In Florida, for example, drivers will register their vehicle with the HSMV, pay a registration tax and fees, and then receive a metal license plate, a validation decal, and a registration certificate. Once you’ve received all of that, your vehicle is officially registered in the state of Florida.

All states have license plates. A license plate is proof that the vehicle’s registration fees have been paid. The license plate also helps identify the vehicle and trace its ownership.

You Must Show Proof of Ownership to Register the Vehicle

The vehicle’s title and registration are linked to one another – so it’s no surprise people confuse the two terms. To register a vehicle with your state’s DMV, you must show proof of ownership, verifying that your name is on the title of the vehicle.

In most states, that means you need to show the DMV acceptable proof of ownership after purchasing a vehicle in a private sale, including a title certificate and a bill of sale. Once you have verified your legitimate ownership of the vehicle, you can proceed with the registration process.

In the case of a private sale, you would also be changing the title and registering the vehicle at the same time. If you just purchased a car from a private owner, for example, then you can provide the DMV with a title certificate and bill of sale before completing the registration.

Do I Need Proof of Ownership to Insure a Vehicle?

Generally, to insure any item, you need to prove that you have some financial ‘stake’ in that item. Typically, you only insure vehicles that you legitimately own. Insurance companies might ask for proof that you have some ownership in the car before giving you a car insurance policy. This is called ‘proof of insurable interest’.

If your name isn’t already on the vehicle’s title, then you may need your name to be listed on the title as a co-owner in order to place the vehicle on your insurance policy.

However, insurance companies have different rules regarding ownership and non-owner car insurance. Check with your insurance company.

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Name Requirements on Vehicle Title

As mentioned above, you can list a name or corporation on the vehicle’s title. However, some vehicles have multiple owners or co-owners. In this case, there are different ways to list the owner’s names on the policy.

Let’s say John and Mary both co-own the same Honda Civic. The vehicle title for the Honda Civic can list the owners in two ways:

  • John or Mary
  • John and Mary or John/Mary

If the co-owners are listed as “John or Mary”, it means that the vehicle can be sold with the consent of just one vehicle owner. John or Mary can sell the car in a private sale without providing proof of the other person’s consent.

If the co-owners are listed as “John and Mary” or “John / Mary”, however, then both listed owners need to consent before selling a vehicle. The buyer requires a signature from both owners.

Conclusion: Car Registration and Car Title Are Two Similar but Different Things

Car registration documents and car titles are different documents:

  • The car title is proof of ownership of the vehicle; it lists the owners, co-owners, or company that legally owns the vehicle
  • Car registration documents verify that a vehicle has been registered with appropriate state authorities – like the DMV; by registering your vehicle with your state DMV, you can receive a license plate, sticker, and other proof of registration

Once you have a car title in your name and proof of car registration, you can start searching for car insurance for that vehicle.

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