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Car title vs. registration – what is the difference?

The title of a car tells you what the car is called. The registration is the number that appears on the title. But what is the difference between the two?

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Auto Refinancing
March 23, 2022

If you own a car, you are probably familiar with terms like car title and car registration. The common misconception is that both these terms mean the same thing. However, the car title is different from the car registration. Both the car title and car registration are necessary to operate a vehicle. Here, we will look at title vs. registration: how they differ to help you better understand how they relate to auto refinancing. 

What is a car title? 

A car title is a document that identifies the legal owner of a car. This document is issued when you purchase the car. The look of a car title will vary from state to state, but ultimately, a car title declares ownership of the vehicle. The name listed on the car title is the vehicle's legal owner. If you are seeking a loan and using your car as collateral, you will be required to present the car title or turn it over. Once the loan is paid off, the car title will be returned to your possession.  

A car title is a document that identifies the legal owner of a car. This document is issued when you purchase the car.

What is a car registration? 

Car registration is a document that shows that a car is legally eligible to be driven on the road. It is proof that the car has been registered with the correct government entities, passes inspection, and all necessary fees have been paid. Be aware registration laws are different depending from state to state. You will need to keep up with local registration laws for your vehicle to be up to date. Upon your registration, you will get a license plate along with the registration and a sticker for your car, all of which can prove your vehicle registration. You are required to have all these in or on your car at all times as proof that the car is registered.  

Car registration is a document that shows that a car is legally eligible to be driven on the road.

What is the difference between a car title and car registration? 

Despite some similarities, there are several differences in  the car title vs. registration. Some of the ways the car title and registration can differ include: 

The car title is required for the car registration

The car title is usually issued on the purchase or filed once the car is purchased. When you register your car, you will have to present the car title. 

How often you need to access your car title vs. registration

The car title doesn’t have to be in your possession at all times, whereas the car registration needs to be in the car at all times.

How often you need to renew 

How often you need to renew your registration will depend on your state’s laws, but a car title will not need to be renewed.  

When it comes to refinancing, our RateWorks experts are available to help you sort through the documents you need to get a quote or complete a refinancing application. If you would like to refinance and are unsure if you have the correct documents, our specialists are available Monday through Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm MST.