It's easy to confuse title with registration. While there are some similarities, there are also some differences.

A title is a document that proves you own a car. Registration, on the other hand, is an official process through which your state certifies that you are legally allowed to drive the vehicle.

Let's find out the difference between title and registration, also learn how you can register your vehicle.

Key Highlights
  • The title refers to ownership of a vehicle while registration is the process by which your car is registered with your state's DMV.
  • You have to show your proof of ownership when you register your vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Depending on the state laws, there can be two names on the vehicle title.
  • You should always carry your vehicle registration document whenever you are driving on the road.

Title vs Registration

A motor vehicle title (also referred to by some as the "pink slip") is a legal form, establishing a person or business as the legal owner of a vehicle. In a nutshell, it shows who legally owns the vehicle.

Registration is different in that it is something required by the state to show you have registered with them, paid any taxes or fees due. Registering your motor vehicle goes hand in hand with the titling process.

As part of the registration process, you typically receive a license plate and registration document or sticker to place on the plate or windshield so that the vehicle is known to the state and roadworthy.

License plates are evidence that registration fees have been paid and are a means of readily identifying a vehicle and tracing ownership.

Florida's Department of Vehicles referred to there as the HSMV, defines registration as evidence of having paid the registration tax and fees on a motor vehicle. It consists of a metal license plate, a validation decal, and a registration certificate.

What is car title?

A car title is a legal document issued by the state department of motor vehicles (DMV) at the time you buy the vehicle.

It shows proof of ownership and without it, you will not be able to prove that you legally own the vehicle. And if you took out a loan to buy the car, your lender will retain control over the title until you pay off your loan amount.

The title consists of the following details:

  • Name of the vehicle owner and seller
  • Weight class
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Details of Lienholder if vehicle is financed
  • Odometer reading at the time of sale
  • Date of sale
  • Signature of both the parties (Buyer and Seller)
  • Addresses of buyer and seller

Types of car title

A car title can be used for more than just proving ownership. There are different types of titles and each one of them indicates the specific condition of a vehicle.

  • Clean title: This states that the vehicle has been thoroughly inspected and it has never been involved in an accident or sustained any damages.
  • Clear title: A car is given a clear title if it has been repaired after sustaining damages and has passed the inspection.
  • Salvage title: Vehicles that have been deemed a total loss get the salvage title. They cannot be driven until they are fixed and get a rebuilt title.
  • Rebuilt title: A rebuilt title is given to a car that has been repaired or rebuilt after sustaining severe damages.
  • Bonded title: Cars that hold no record of ownership get the bonded title, with a security bond equal to the car's value being purchased as security.
  • Dismantled title: The dismantled title is given to a car that has sustained damages and is deemed total.
  • Junk title: A car gets a junk title if it cannot be repaired.
  • Lemon title: If some of the components of a car does not work properly and makes it risky to drive on the road then the car is titled a lemon.
  • Odometer rollback title: A car is given an odometer rollback title if its odometer is turned back illegally. It results in lower mileage reading than the car actually has.

Read More: How to insure a salvage or rebuilt title car

What is vehicle registration?

Vehicle registration is the process of registering your vehicle with the state. To be able to legally drive your car on the road, you must get your vehicle registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Transportation Department depending on the state you live in.

States require vehicles to be registered for various purposes such as determining owner identity and providing useful information during criminal investigations or at the time of tax assessment.

A vehicle registration certificate is something you should carry whenever you are driving. You never know when you're going to get pulled over by the law enforcement and they'll ask to see it.

How to register your vehicle?

To register a vehicle with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) you must show proof of ownership and thus your name must be on the title of the vehicle. If your name is not on the title the DMV would question your right to register a vehicle.

For example in New York State if you are registering a vehicle you bought from a private party you need to show the DMV acceptable proof of ownership with a title certificate and a bill of sale. You then would not only register the car but be applying for a title in your name since when you buy a car the title is signed over to you, the buyer.

Do I need vehicle proof of ownership to insure a car?

Normally to place a car on your car insurance policy you do need to show proof of insurable interest. This usually means to an insurer that you have some ownership of the car.

This means in your situation you may need to have your name added as a co-owner of the car to be able to place it on your insurance policy.

It really depends upon the guidelines of your insurance provider. Some allow parents to insure their child's car on their policy without being on the title while others will not if you are not listed as a co-owner of the car.

It will also depend on details, like does your son live with you or on his own. If on his own, then it is doubtful he could be placed on your policy.

Can you register a car under a different name than on the title?

There can be two names on a title separated by and OR or.

State laws differ regarding this but basically when registering a vehicle and the names are joined by the word "or," one owner can sell the vehicle without the other's signature or consent. "And" or a slash (/) requires the signature of each owner to sell the vehicle.

So if you do get your name added to the title keep this in mind so you can determine how your name should be added.

In most states even if you are listed as a co-owner on the car your child could register the car themselves in their own name.

You also would need to check into your state laws on what proof of insurance is needed to register the car. In some states, the insurance just has to be on the vehicle and does not necessarily have to be in the car owner's name. In other states, the car owner's name must be on the proof of insurance.

For example in Texas, where you register your vehicle with the County Tax Assessor, they state that the car proof of insurance shown must be in the owner's name for the vehicle to be registered.

So the best way to see if you need to be added to your son's title as a co-owner to have an insurable interest in it to place his car on your car insurance policy is to speak to your auto insurance agent.

Or if you are comparing quotes for the cheapest car insurance ask the insurance carriers that you get rate quotes with what their underwriting rules allow in this situation.

Finally, you also should check with your state's DMV to make sure they would accept insurance in your name for your son's car (if you end up leaving the title in his name only).