Buying Your Rig and Transferring Ownership

Buying Your Rig and Transferring Ownership

I bought Little Wing from a guy living in Rhode Island named Dick Tracy. His wife’s name is Jane. How often do you meet a Dick and Jane Tracy? We felt like it was a sign. The Shasta was sitting with his son Nate and wife Marissa here in California. The first time we came to see the Shasta we ended up having a great chat in their backyard about raising chickens, and she let us hold a clucker they named Suzanne Somers who bore an uncanny resemblance to her namesake (and later was discovered to be a rooster).

I hear some states are a little more lackadaisical about what it takes to transfer ownership of a travel trailer. In California, you need some serious proof of ownership. I had a lot of questions when I first called my local AAA branch, so I figured someone of you out there might be looking for these answers too.

Here’s the skinny:

How Do I Transfer Ownership?

  • You need a title – Whether transferring a vehicle registered in-state or out, you need your seller to have a title. If they don’t, they need to get a duplicate title ordered before the sale. Straight from the horse’s mouth: “If they don’t have a title or can’t get one, you know something’s funny.”
  • You need a copy of the most current registration – Apparently the registration can be expired, but you need some proof of the most recent registration. And you are liable to pay back-registration fees if the registration of the purchased vehicle is out of date. These fees follow the vehicle, not the owner.
  • You should also have a bill of sale – A bill of sale tells the DMV what you bought it for (and how much they can tax you for the sale. Barf. But it also affords you an extra piece of documented proof regarding the sale.)

How Do I Know Where the Vehicle/Trailer Is Currently Registered?

Check the license plate. What state is it from? There’s your answer.

Do I Have to Bring My Trailer to the DMV?

Yes. This one surprised me, but yes. They will want to take a couple pics and also verify the VIN number.

How Long Do I Have After Sale to Complete My Registration?

According to AAA, 20 days in the state of California.

How Much Will a Title Transfer and Registration Cost Me?

Again if your seller has not been keeping up on their registration in your current state, then you will be liable for any back fees. If they’re late on their registration in another state, I don’t think that’s on you, but don’t quote me here.

It’s about $50 for title transfer and registration, plus tax on the purchase price. Don’t forget, for private sales the DMV will collect tax (8% in CA) on that purchase price at the time of registration/title transfer. That means a $10,000 trailer will add $800 to your title and registration transfer fees. Bummertown, U.S.A.

To help you know what you’re in for ahead of time, here’s a list of states with low-to-no sales tax:

  • Alaska (0%)
  • Delaware (0%)
  • Montana (0%)
  • New Hampshire (0%)
  • Oregon (0%)
  • Alabama (4%)
  • Colorado (2.9%)
  • Georgia (4%)
  • Hawaii (4%)
  • Louisiana (5%)
  • Missouri (4.225%)
  • New York (4%)
  • North Carolina (4.75%)
  • North Dakota (5%)
  • Oklahoma (4.5%)
  • South Dakota (4.5%)
  • Wisconsin (5%)
  • Wyoming (4%)

Do I Need Insurance? How Much Is It?

Luckily trailer insurance is whoa cheaper than car insurance. For comprehensive and collision on a trailer valued at $10,000, they’d tack on only about another $100/year with a $500 deductible.

Your existing car’s liability coverage flows to the trailer while it’s being pulled. But you may want to look into additional RV insurance features, such as hail damage protection and liability off-hitch (ex: protection in case you forget to chock your trailer wheels and it accidentally Monster Truck’s your neighbor’s Airstream while you’re not looking).

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