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How to Gift (and Ship!) a Car this Holiday Season

Gifting a car this holiday season? Congratulations! You automatically win the award for best gift. (Even if it’s a gift from you to you.) Wondering how to ship your car like you’d ship any other gift? This is the guide for you. In the spirit of the upcoming 12 days of Christmas, our team here at Direct Express Auto Transport has put together 12 steps for gifting a car and shipping it this holiday season. Read on to learn more, and ship your car with us!


Step 1: Locate Your Cars Title

No car can be gifted without its title. Put simply: a car title is proof of ownership. Without it, your gift recipient won’t technically own the vehicle. Hopefully you’re in the clear and have your car title tucked away in a safe place, and the only thing you have to do now is go to your filing cabinet and grab it. If you are not so lucky and have lost it, contact your State’s DMV ASAP to see what needs to be done to get a new car title in your name. Usually a fee must be paid to the DMV, and you will have to wait 2 – 6 weeks to receive the new title in the mail. Luckily, however, you can ship your car without having the title in your possession. Carriers almost never verify car ownership. Anyone standing there with the keys and willing to pay is able to ship a vehicle.

Step 2: Satisfy Any Remaining Liens on Your Car

If you are still paying off the car, you can’t legally give it away. To be a responsible gift-giver, you must satisfy any lienholders on the car. A lienholder is a person who you borrowed money from, using the car as collateral. Your lienholder’s name is going to be on the title of your car, regardless of if you have paid off the entire lien already. Many people won’t go through the hassle of getting a new title that shows them as the sole owners of their cars, even if they’ve paid the car off in full. If you are one of these people, you’ll have to contact your lienholder and get them to sign off on your title certificate to show that you have finished paying them off. And if you haven’t finished paying off your lienholder? Stop reading now. You are not legally allowed to gift your car to a loved one because your car is not legally 100% yours.

Step 3: If the Car Is an Inheritance, Involve Probate Court

Perhaps you’re dealing with a car of a loved one who has passed away. You don’t need an additional car, so you’ve decided to give the car away to a friend or family member. In most states, you are going to have to go to a probate court in order to make the transfer official. Check with your local state before heading to the courthouse; some states simplify the process by only requiring you to file a simple affidavit with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to take possession of the car. Once the car is in your possession, head to the top of this guide to make sure you have everything else covered before moving onto Step 4.

Step 4: Complete the Transfer Section on the Back of Your Cars Title

To make your gift official, you’ll have to sign your car over to the gift recipient via the vehicle’s title. You, the one gifting a car, will be required to provide your signature, driver’s license information, and the car’s odometer reading at the present time. The person who is receiving the gifted car will then have to fill out the buyer section of the title. Be sure to remind them that in the line asking for the sale price, they will write in “Gift” instead of a dollar amount.

Many title certificates specifically state that all writing on the title must be done clearly and legibly with no cross-outs or erasures, so practice your penmanship, triple check every letter and word you are about to write, and fill out your title pristinely. You don’t want the DMV denying your transfer because of a simple printing or legibility error. It could require you to obtain an entirely new title to start the process all over again.

Step 5: Check with Your States Registry of Motor Vehicles for Additional Gift Requirements

Generally, gifts given between family members are freely allowed in nearly all states. This means there is no sales tax collected when cars are gifted between family members. That being said, each state has different regulations for gifting cars, so be sure to check with your state (and the gift receiver’s state, if he or she lives in a different state than you) to see if that state requires some sort of additional steps in the car-gifting process, such as requiring proof of family relationship. There’s nothing worse than waiting in line at the DMV for hours, only to be told that you are missing one piece of paperwork to finish the transfer.

Step 6: Verify Insurance of the Gift Recipient

Since you currently own a car, you (hopefully) have car insurance. But what about your gift recipients? Is this their first car? Do they know it needs to be insured from minute one of car ownership? Talk to them to make sure they are acquiring insurance. If they are inexperienced, give them the gift of guidance on who to insure with and what sorts of rates to shoot for. Just make sure the new car owner is getting the vehicle insured under his or her name so you can immediately suspend your own insurance on the car once you give it away.

Step 7: Research Your States Check Inspection Requirements and Complete a Check if Necessary

When transferring your vehicle’s title, you’ll have to get your vehicle checked out. Like other steps on this list, the requirements for this one vary from state to state. When you visit your state’s DMV to have the above steps addressed, be sure to also ask if a car inspection is required at the time of the title transfer. If it is, add that to your checklist of things to do before giving away the car. In many states, you will be required to bring your vehicle to a licensed inspection station for an emissions test, safety inspection, and comprehensive checkup.

Step 8: Ship the Car to Its New Owner

The holiday season is a hectic time of year. Most people don’t have the time or energy to drive a gifted car to its new owner, unless that new owner lives just on the other side of town. Holiday plane tickets are also expensive, so it’s not always advisable to fly gift recipients out to their new ride. (They’d have to drive it back anyway.) In most cases, it’s cheaper and easier to ship the car to its new home. Coordinate the shipping with a trusted car shipping company that will make sure the process is smooth and painless. You’ve already run the bureaucratic gauntlet by completing all of the other steps in the car gifting process. Make your life easier by shipping with a reliable, dependable car shipping company. Then all you have to do is wait for the shipping company to bring their 18-wheeler to your doorstep and wait for the call from your loved one saying that the car has arrived. (Skip ahead to Step 12 to make sure you choose the best car shipping company possible.)

Step 9: Have Gift Recipients Deliver Documents to Their States Registry of Motor Vehicles

In most (but not all) states, recipients of gifted cars are required to go to their state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles to turn in the cars’ original titles (with all completed transfer information turned in and signatures signed), along with a state-stipulated fee for title transfer. Skip the lines and spend the extra 20 dollars to ensure quick and safe delivery of the documents through the postal service, UPS, or FedEx.

Step 10: Register the Gifted Vehicle According to the States Usual Procedures

Step 10, vehicle registration, is entirely on the shoulders of the new car owner. If your recipients are young, or not the most responsible, feel free to remind them to go through all of the proper steps and channels to register their car in the new state. The DMV is the place to start.

Step 11: Wait for the New Title to Arrive

Waiting for the new title is another step that falls squarely on the shoulders of the gift recipient, but it’s one you should supervise. The new title will usually take a few weeks to ship after registration. When it arrives, be sure your gift recipients read the entire title to make sure that everything on it is correct and up to date. If there are any mistakes, make sure your recipient contacts their state’s DMV to begin the process of getting a corrected car title.

Step 12: Ship Your Old Car the Right Way With Direct Express Auto Transport

Straight from Step 8, we’re concluding this guide with the most important step of all. When gifting a car, choose our team here at Direct Express Auto Transport for your car shipping needs. For more than fifteen years, we have led the car shipping industry in service, speed, and affordability. Back in 2004, we were the very first car shipping company to develop an online quote system — five years before any other company had one. Today, it’s still the best of the best. Simply answer 7 quick questions to have an accurate, affordable, and 100%-transparent quote in seconds.

Beyond the quote, there are several reasons to choose our team for car shipping. Our 94% “excellent” rating on Trustpilot. Our A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Our fleet of logistics-guided dispatchers and drivers who deliver the safest and fastest shipping orders in the industry. The list goes on. We know that the holidays can be stressful, which is why we’re on-call to answer any of your questions — whether you’re considering shipping with us or already have a car in route on one of our trucks. Contact us to see our service in action, use our Online Quote Calculator to get your quote, and ship with our team here at Direct Express Auto Transport today!

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