Alabama Car Tag Transfer Process

by Beverly Bird

You might buy a car just for the fun of it -- it caught your eye and you wanted it -- or as a matter of necessity, but if you purchase from a private seller, you'll have to take care of the paperwork yourself. Under Alabama law, tags aren’t transferable from one owner to the next. You must arrange for new ones of your own, and the process is subject to some rules and requirements.

The Existing Tags

When you buy a car in Alabama, the previous owner is expected to remove the tags and keep them in his possession. If he doesn’t, you’re obligated to return them to the license plate issuing official in his county – the Alabama Department of Revenue office there. If you happen to own another registered vehicle of the same class as the one you’ve just purchased, you can transfer those tags to your new car, but this still requires a visit to the Alabama DOR because you'll need authorization first. The transferred tag is only good for the remainder of the original license year, and you’ll eventually have to get a new set of tags for the first vehicle if you want to continue driving that, too.

Tip

  • If you take ownership of the vehicle from your spouse or if you transfer ownership to your child, the tags can stay with the vehicle, but you or your child must still have the transfer recorded by a DOR licensing official.

Getting New Tags

You have 20 days from the date of purchase to purchase new tags if you don’t transfer the tags from another vehicle you own. Go to your local DOR office and make an application for registration with the designated agent there. You must have proof of liability insurance coverage and complete an application for a new title. The previous owner should have signed the title over to you and given it to you at the time of sale --you’ll need to take this with you so the DOR can issue a new title in your name. You must also submit a Conforming Odometer Statement signed by you and the previous owner. This statement should appear on the back of the original title. If it doesn't for some reason, ask the DOR agent for a form. You may also need to show your bill of sale.

Tip

  • Alabama imposes a fine if you miss the 20-day deadline. The bill of sale should clearly state this and tell you the amount of the penalty -- $15 as of 2015.

Moving Into the State

Similar rules apply if you move to Alabama and your vehicle still bears tags from the state where you previously lived. You have 30 days in this case, rather than 20, to go to the DOR and register your car and get new tags. An exception exists if you’re a member of the military and you’re stationed in Alabama. The car can remain registered in your home state if you don’t want to change the tags.

Items you will need

About the Author

Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.