If I Purchase a Car, Can I Put Two Names on the Title?by Mark KennanUpdated August 07, 2023
A car title serves as a record of a vehicle's legal owner. Information on a title application includes the buyer’s name and home address, vehicle identification number, driver’s license number, date of transfer, and current odometer reading.
If your name isn't on the certificate of title, you don't have the legal rights to register or sell the car. States allow you to put multiple names on the title if there's more than one owner. If you're buying a car with someone else, it's important that the title includes the names of all the owners and the way they're listed can make a difference depending on where you live.
Types of Multiple Owners
If there's more than one name on the title, the order in which you list the names can make a big difference later on. For example, if you use the word "or" between the names on a California title you're creating a joint tenancy or joint ownership between owners. This means either can act for the car including proof of ownership to and, if one owner dies, the other becomes the sole owner who can trade in to a dealership/local DMV, sign a bill of sale, or transfer a vehicle title over to a family member.
However, if you use the word "and" between the names in Virginia, there's no right of survivorship and each owner can leave their share of the car to whoever they want if they die. If you're unsure, talk to an attorney in your state or the department of motor vehicles to make sure the names on the title accurately represent the proper status of the co-owner’s name or new owner of the vehicle’s name.
Adding a New Owner
In order to add a new person’s name to the car registration is to apply for a new title. A name cannot be added to the vehicle registration without a new title. Having all driver names on the title can be beneficial in cases where law enforcement may request to see proof of ownership of the vehicle. Keep in mind your state’s sales tax policy for titles as well, a gifted vehicle requiring a transfer of title for example may not require sales tax payment in certain states.
As a good rule of thumb also, all owners listed on the title application should be listed on the insurance policy for a car. For specific faqs, visit insurance companies websites for more information on emission requirements, how to add a new car or new vehicle to your car insurance, premiums, transfer of ownership, and more.
Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."