Another car question (PA Dopers especially)...

The car I’m driving right now is in my parents’ names, but I paid for it 7 years ago when it was originally bought. It’s in their names because my credit suck(ed/s) and I could have never got financing for it. We just never got around to signing it over once I actually had a job and a steady income.

We’re going to rectify that at the end of June, when I go up to Altoona to visit my mom. I do have some questions, though, because I’ve never been directly involved in the transfer of a vehicle.

It’s going to be transferred as a gift, since the car is completely paid for (by me) at this point. What fees are usually involved in the transfer of a private gift of a car in PA? Will I be liable for some sort of tax on the transfer come next April? Will I need to arrange new registration or will the old registration carry over with my name on it once the notary puts his stamp on the title? I’m already on the insurance thing (the subject of my last post about this car), and I’m calling the local agent for the current insurance company to see if I can get a deal due to being known to them for the last…forever years, actually (or at least since I learned to drive).

Overall, what fees am I looking at immediately (to be paid to the state or to the notary to forward to the state)? And what expenditures am I looking at come tax time?

The car is a 1994 Cutlass Ciera, which the Kelly Blue Book website values at roughly $1250 for private party price.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member or anyone else. If you transfer a car as a “gift” (no sale price) then PA wants to collect tax on the book value of the car. If you transfer a car with a very low value, then you have to fill out a form justifying the low value (I’ve done that a few times - I used to buy some real clunkers). This is to prevent “gift” cars from being sold at a low price to avoid paying the taxes on them.

The procedure is pretty simple. Take the title in to the nearest notary (AAA handles it, as do a lot of repair shops). Make sure to bring whoever’s name is on the title with you, because they will have to sign the title in front of the notary. Then you sign the title in the appropriate place and fill out a bunch of forms. Make sure you have the car with you because they’ll want to check the VIN plate. You’ll end up with a new plate and a temporary registration. Your new registration will come in the mail a few weeks later. You may need to have proof of insurance with you as well, I don’t recall.

All of the money will be up front (which kinda sucks). You won’t have to do anything next April at tax time.

If you have any questions you can call the AAA or anyone else who handles these things, or the DMV if you want to be on hold forever. They will be able to tell you the exact fees up front.

Poking around on the DMV site, it says you’ll also need to bring your driver’s license with you for photo ID.

Here’s some links that you may want to read through:

I know you’re not a new resident, but the new resident link has a lot of info about title transfer in general. The last link has the fees.

I had to do exactly this a few years ago when my parents paid my car off for me.

I don’t recall having to pay any tax at all when I got back to PA. I just turned in the forms, paid the registration fee, and that was that. You do need the giver’s signature, so you will need your mom there. You will also need proof of insurance when you go to PennDOT, and you will want to go to PennDOT instead of one of those messenger services. You will also want to call PennDOT to make sure you get all the forms you need.


Quick plug for AAA. When I registered a trailer, it was actually cheaper for me to join AAA and get the member discount then to just pay the non-member fee. I’ve maintained my membership ever since (which is probably what they hope for).