How to Retitle Your Vehicle After You Paid Off the Loan

It's not quite as satisfying as paying a house in full, but completing payments on your vehicle is a watershed moment. After years of monthly payouts, you've finally crossed the finish line. Moreover, you've acquired the right to change the car title to reflect your name alone. Each state has its own motor vehicles department that sets the rules regarding retitling a vehicle. But the basics of the process are straightforward.

Contact your lender to confirm your final payment was received. Errors do occur.

Ask whether the lender has notified your state motor vehicles department about the payoff. Either through oversight or negligence, banks sometimes drag their feet on this step. If the notice has not been sent, continue to check in with the bank every week or so until you get appropriate confirmation.

Look for the title to arrive by mail. Known in some states as a pink slip, the title is legal proof that you own the vehicle outright.

Put the title in a safe place. A strongbox or safe-deposit box might serve your purposes. You'll need the title if you ever want to sell or otherwise transfer ownership of the vehicle. Knowing exactly where it is at all times is critical.


  • Some states will not mail you the title upon notification of loan payoff. Some motor vehicle departments require that you walk into an agency office with proof of loan payoff in hand. A letter from the bank providing the date and amount of the final payment, along with the language "paid in full" should suffice. Some states may also require you to fill out state forms relative to retitling a vehicle. Following your state's rules to the letter will help the process run smoothly.


  • Replacing a lost title can be costly and time-consuming. You'll need to get documentation from the bank that the loan was paid off. You may also need to fill out a rash of motor vehicle department forms, then wait weeks for a replacement title. Sidestep this agony by keeping the title to your vehicle in a safe place and making a note in your vehicle records as to where the title can be found.

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About the Author

D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.