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Consumer Sourcebook

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Auto Title

The title to a motor vehicle is the proof of who owns the vehicle. In New Hampshire, as in all states, motor vehicle titles are registered with the state. There are certain procedures that must be followed when registering a motor vehicle the first time, when buying a used vehicle, and when removing a lienholder from the title. Laws governing auto titles vary from state to state. This section deals with the laws that apply to auto titles in New Hampshire.

The Law

In New Hampshire, a Certificate of Title is required whenever ownership or registration of a vehicle is changed (RSA 261). Certain information is required for the Certificate of Title to be issued:

  • The owner's name and address
  • A description of the vehicle including make, model, year, vehicle identification number (VIN), body type (such as sedan, coupe, etc.), number of cylinders, and whether the vehicle is new or used
  • Date of purchase by the person applying for the title
  • Name and address of the person or dealer from whom the vehicle was purchased
  • Names and addresses of any lienholders (creditors who hold a security interest in the vehicle), in order of priority, and a description of their security agreements
  • Manufacturer's or importer's certification of origin for new vehicles

When a motor vehicle is purchased from a dealer, the dealer has 10 days from the date of the sale to mail an application for a Certificate of Title to the New Hampshire Department of Safety's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When a lienholder possesses the vehicle's title at the time of the sale, the dealer has 20 days from the date of the sale to get the application to the DMV. If the vehicle is purchased through a private sale from another individual, the consumer has 20 days from the date of the sale to get the application and other appropriate documents to the DMV.

If you are changing the vehicle's registration to a New Hampshire registration from another state, you will need to provide the following information with the application for the Certificate of Title:

  • The Certificate of Title issued by the other state or country (if not in English, include a notarized translation)
  • Whether or not any creditor holds a security interest in the vehicle
  • Any other information required by the DMV for the purpose of identifying the vehicle

In New Hampshire, the title will include the following information:

  • The date issued
  • The name and address of the owner(s)
  • The names and addresses of any lienholders in order of priority
  • The title number assigned to the vehicle
  • A general description of the vehicle

When you have made the last payment on the loan which helped you buy your car, truck, van, motorcycle, or sport utility vehicle, your former creditor will notify the DMV that it no longer holds a security interest in the vehicle. The creditor will send a statement verifying that the loan is paid in full to the DMV so that the creditor's security interest in the vehicle is released. The lienholder/creditor has 10 days after the loan is paid in full to contact the DMV. The Certificate of Title will then be sent to you. You should keep the Certificate of Title with your other important legal papers, not in your vehicle.

Example: In 2001, John and Mary Caroner buy a 2001 Slimmobile using a bank loan. In 2004 they finish paying back the loan and receive a Certificate of Title to the Slimmobile. The Certificate names "John and Mary Caroner" as the "owners" of the car. In 2006, the Caroners trade the Slimmobile for a new Bulgemobile. They each print and sign their names as "sellers" of the Slimmobile on the back of the Certificate of Title.

When you sell your vehicle, the dealer or other buyer will expect you to fill out and sign the "Assignment of Title" on the back of the Certificate of Title. The Assignment of Title requires you to fill in the exact number of miles showing on the odometer or to disclose that the odometer reading is not the actual mileage. The person or persons signing the Assignment of Title must be the same person(s) who appear as "owner(s)" on the Certificate of Title. Never sign the Assignment form without filling in the name of the buyer. Sometimes dishonest people or dealers will use a blank Assignment of Title to pretend that a car sale is a "private sale" when it is really a "dealer sale" and subject to state and federal laws (refer to Autos: Used for more information). When a sale like this goes awry, it can cause trouble for the person who signed the blank Assignment of Title.

If you are purchasing a motor vehicle in another state, and want to register it in New Hampshire, you can apply to the DMV for a 20-day registration permit. You get this permit by applying in person at one of the DMV substations around the state and paying a $10 fee. Only one 20-day registration can be issued to any one person during a calendar year.

Points To Remember

  • When you buy a motor vehicle for cash, or when you pay off your loan, be sure that the person or company responsible for notifying the DMV to issue your Certificate of Title does so promptly. If you do not receive the Certificate of Title, remind the person or company to send the correct forms to the DMV.
  • Never let anyone persuade you to sign the back of a Certificate of Title that has been left blank because it may result in difficult title problems for the person buying your car and potential legal liability for you.

Where To Go If You Have A Problem

Contact the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles for any questions about your vehicles' titles:

NH Department of Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles
33 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03305
603-271-2251

Or contact the DMV substation nearest you.

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New Hampshire Department of Justice | 33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301
Telephone: 603-271-3658