• Car Title vs. Registration: What’s the Difference?

Car Title vs. Registration: What’s the Difference?

Car Title vs. Registration: What’s the Difference? Image

During smog service in Rancho Cucamonga, we have often observed that a lot of car users don’t know that car titles and car registration aren’t the same. A lot of people are completely unaware that a vehicle’s title and its registration are two separate concepts.  

In this article, we have elaborated on how you can come across a detailed description of each document and what purpose(s) they can be utilized for. You need to know the basic difference between car title registration and the registration of the same vehicle. 

The Basic Concept of a Car Title 

The title of any concerned vehicle happens to be a physical document to establish that you are the owner of the vehicle that has officially and legally been registered. This document was provided to you by your regional DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). The title confirms that you are the owner of the vehicle against a registration which is a car that has been allowed permission to drive on the road throughout the state. 

Additionally, the title also provides information regarding the history of the vehicle, including the vehicle’s model, year, make, and accident history. 

If you are interested in donating your vehicle or getting rid of the same in any capacity, you will always need to transfer the possession or ownership of the vehicle to the new lawful and authorized owner. 

The basic information that you need to provide on vehicle titles in the U.S. are as follows: 

  1. The Vehicle Indicator Number (VIN)  
  1. The legal owner of the vehicle, the lienholder, and/or other owners. 
  1. The type of title  
  1. The date of issuing the title 
  1. The vehicle’s model, make, and year. 

The Basic Concept of Vehicle Registration 

It is surprising when we find many people don’t know that vehicle registration in California or other states establishes that your car is safe to be driven on the road and that you have cleared all the fees properly and taxes related to the DMV of your state. 

This varies from the Title of a vehicle, which has been explained before and is proof of ownership and other information regarding the vehicle. 

You’ll receive your license plate and tabs once you register your vehicle for the first time or something interim and provisional to place in your window. Registration has to be completed every year. For certain states, it is two years. 

By registering your car, you’ll let the state be informed that you can drive your vehicle safely on the road, ensuring other drivers are protected while safely driving with you on the road too. 

You may have to pay hefty fines or face jail time or both if you are driving a car that is not registered with the DMV of your respective state. 

You must ensure that you update your registration once you shift out of state. 

The Difference 

So, vehicle titles establish proof of vehicle ownership, whereas vehicle registration signifies that a vehicle is registered with the state and cleared for driving on public roads. A state’s department of motor vehicles is only authorized to issue both documents. However, the vehicle title needs only updating, based on a change of ownership. You must renew the vehicle registration regularly. The frequency will be dependent on the rules of each state. 

The Process to Get a Car Title 

Whether purchasing a used vehicle from a private party, a new car from a dealership or paying off a loan on a vehicle you’re driving for a long, you’ll wish to ensure that you receive the title to the vehicle to establish complete ownership. Dropping a loan holder from a title in a few states is easy. But obtaining the title from an earlier owner often includes showing the local DMV office your proof of residency, a bill of sale, a present odometer reading, and payments of any sales taxes and fees. 

Tags on a Car 

Being a leading smog test center, we would like you to realize that the sticker tags on your windshield or license plate prove that your vehicle has an active vehicle registration, whereas your original registration certificate establishes that you’re the registered owner of the vehicle. Similarly, your license plate proves that you can legally drive the vehicle on public roads. 

Importance of Vehicle Registration 

Even if you own a vehicle, you can’t drive it on public roads legally without registering the vehicle with the state you reside in. The vehicle registration certificate proves that the state has cleared the vehicle for use, and the registration certificate is proof of the state’s acceptance. Remember that driving an unregistered vehicle or one with a lapsed registration is illegal. 

Who’s Authorized to Register a Car? 

The vehicle owner, as per the vehicle title, is only authorized to register a vehicle. If it’s a leased car, a dealership can own the car’s title and then register it in the name of the person paying the lease. Mostly a state requires proof of ownership or a contract with the owner to register a vehicle. 


As we provide the smog service in California, it was our responsibility to let others know about the differences. Get in touch with us for more assistance.