What Do I Need for a Massachusetts Title Transfer?

There are different forms you need to provide in order to successfully transfer a vehicle’s title in Massachusetts. When a vehicle’s ownership changes, you are required to transfer the title, such as when you are:

  • Buying or selling a vehicle
  • Paying off a vehicle’s loan
  • Giving a vehicle as a gift
  • Donating a vehicle to charity
  • Inheriting a vehicle

Be advised that you may be required to provide multiple forms and payments to complete your vehicle transfer process in Massachusetts.

Smog Certification/Vehicle Inspection

The state of Massachusetts created an enhanced vehicle inspection program called the Massachusetts Vehicle Check in 2008.  As a part of this yearly emissions inspection program, the state of Massachusetts tests vehicles for safety and smog according to its model year. In the most traditional situations, vehicles must endure emissions checks in addition to a vehicle safety inspection if the vehicle was manufactured after 2001.

Massachusetts Emissions and Smog Check Requirements

MA drivers are required to complete a vehicle inspection once every year before the inspection due date. Drivers in this state must also have a smog test performed on their vehicle if it is the model year 2001 or newer. Both of these vehicle tests are overseen and regulated by the Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services Department under the state Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).

All Massachusetts vehicles are required to undergo a safety inspection. However, only specific vehicle model years require an emissions test. There are two different emissions test vehicles must endure, such as the:

  • On-board Diagnostic Test (OBD) – for passenger vehicles that are manufactured after 2003 and have a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 or less. This diagnostic test is also performed on medium-duty vehicles that were built after 2007 and have a gross vehicle weight rating between 8,501 and 14,000 pounds.
  • Opacity Test – designed for medium and heavy-duty diesel vehicles that don’t possess an OBD system and have a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.

In addition to the above-mentioned vehicle tests, a vehicle safety inspection is required for all vehicles in the state of Massachusetts.

Smog Check Exemptions in Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts requires all vehicles to ensure a safety inspection, but certain vehicles are exempt from smog checks. Vehicles that are exempt from emissions testing in Massachusetts include:

  • New vehicles (for up to one year of the sale or lease date)
  • Electric vehicles
  • Diesel vehicles built before 1984
  • Tactical military vehicle
  • Motorcycles
  • Motorized bicycles
  • Diesel vehicles older than 15 years old or manufactured before 1997
  • Diesel vehicles manufactured before 2007 with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds

Make sure you double-check this list to see if you are required to have a smog check on your vehicle or exempt.

How to Transfer Your Vehicle Title in Massachusetts?

When you want to transfer your vehicle’s title in Massachusetts, you are required to prepare and submit certain documentation. To transfer a vehicle title in this state, you need to submit the following documentation:

  • A completed and signed application form for a vehicle title
  • The assigned certificate of title from the previous to the current vehicle owner
  • If the vehicle is exempt from titling due to its age, the vehicle registration and bill of sale needs to be provided
  • Payment for all applicable vehicle title and registration fees
  • Sales tax exemption form, completed and signed by the previous vehicle owner

If you are a new resident of Massachusetts, you may be required to provide additional documentation and information depending on your specific situation. New vehicle owners need to make sure the date of the transfer, the odometer reading, and the selling price are written on the back of the vehicle’s title.

How to Transfer a Car Title When the Owner is Deceased?

If you intend on keeping a vehicle once the owner is deceased, you need to transfer the vehicle’s title. If you’re a beneficiary, you can choose to keep the vehicle, gift it to a family member, or sell the vehicle to someone else. In this situation, you need to know if the deceased individual’s estate was probated.

Only the joint-owner, beneficiary, and surviving spouse can transfer the vehicle’s title to another person once the owner passes away.

Is the Vehicle Part of a Probated Estate?

When a vehicle’s owner passes away, the way you proceed with transferring a vehicle’s title depends on whether the vehicle’s title was in the individual’s name as a descendant or joint ownership. If the vehicle title was only in the descendant’s name, you need to know if the estate is probated.

Probate is a legal process that occurs when there is no beneficiary or living spouse listed on a will. This legal process involves administering the estate of the individual who passed away. The probate proves the last will and testament are legitimate. The Probate Court determines how to proceed with the deceased individual’s belongings.

If the vehicle in question is part of a probated estate, follow these steps to ensure the transfer of the vehicle’s title is valid.

Contact an Attorney and Probate Court

It’s not possible to transfer the vehicle’s title until the probate is completed. The executor or administrator of the deceased needs to contact Probate Court or an attorney as soon as possible to be made aware of the next steps in the probate process. When the probate process is complete, the heir will receive the vehicle. If the executor was given the vehicle, they can choose to keep or sell the vehicle.

Gather the Required Documentation

The document requirements for this situation will vary slightly by state, but in Massachusetts, you need to provide all of the following documentation to successfully transfer the vehicle title of a deceased individual:

  • Death certificate
  • Odometer disclosure statement
  • Certificate of title
  • Order from Probate Court to transfer the vehicle
  • Transfer fee

Visit the Title Office

When you are the administrator of the deceased person’s estate or the beneficiary of the vehicle in question, you can visit your local Maine title office with the above-mentioned documents to start the vehicle title transfer.

How to Transfer a Vehicle Title Without Probate

In the state of Massachusetts, the deceased person’s property can’t exceed a certain amount and a certain amount of time needs to have passed since the individual passed away before the vehicle’s title can be transferred.

Joint-owners, administrators, and beneficiaries are the only individuals who can provide a death certificate at their local title office and retitle it. Court orders and attorneys are not required in this scenario.

Transferring a Title After a Lease Buyout

Paying off your vehicle loan is a major achievement! Congratulations. The state of Massachusetts implements a paperless lien and vehicle title system, so the title remains in the ELT system until:

  • The loan is paid off and the lien holder contacts the RMV
  • The vehicle is taken in trade by a dealer
  • The vehicle is wrecked and an insurance company pays off the balance
  • The lien holder asks for a paper copy to be mailed to them

When one of these situations occurs, the vehicle title is printed by the RMV and sent to the proper location, such as the owner, lien holder, or insurance company the following day.

How to Transfer Ownership of a Vehicle Without a Title in Massachusetts?

It is illegal to sell a vehicle without the vehicle’s title. If you have lost your vehicle’s title, you are required to request a duplicate vehicle title (Form T20558). Complete the form and submit it to your closest MA RMV branch.

Can I Gift a Car to a Family Member?

Yes, you can gift a family member a vehicle. Gifting a vehicle is the same as purchasing a vehicle from a private party, except you are required to write “gift” or “$0” as the purchase price on the vehicle’s title and/or bill of sale.

Family members who fall into the following categories are eligible for a Massachusetts tax exemption:

  • Children
  • Parents
  • Spouses
  • Siblings

You need to complete a Sales Tax Exemption Form (Form MVU-26), and follow the steps required for purchasing a vehicle from a private individual.

Transferring a Vehicle Title When You Have an Out-of-State Title

Your vehicle must be registered as soon as you establish residency in Massachusetts. The law does not provide a grace period in this scenario. To transfer a vehicle’s registration and vehicle title from out of state, you are required to present the following:

  • Proof of a valid MA insurance policy through the Registration and Title Application with insurance stamp and signature
  • Proof of ownership through certificate of title (if a lien exists on the vehicle, you need your registration from the previous state)
  • Payment for all applicable fees

Requesting a Duplicate Vehicle Title in Massachusetts

When you need to replace a lost vehicle title, motorists are required to submit specific paperwork, such as your current vehicle registration as proof of the vehicle’s identification number (VIN). You can present a certificate or title number as an alternative. You need to complete and submit a Massachusetts duplicate vehicle title form (Form T20558) to your local MA RMV office. You can also replace your vehicle’s title online or by mail.


If you want to replace your vehicle’s title online, you need to provide the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your driver’s license, learner’s permit, or ID card number
  • The last four digits of your social security number

Once you provide this information, you need to finalize the process by paying all applicable fees.

By Mail

If you are replacing your vehicle’s title by mail, you need to complete a Massachusetts duplicate vehicle title (Form T20558) and mail it to MA RMV with the correct payment for the applicable fees. You can only submit checks and money orders in order for the payment to be processed.

How Much Does a Title Transfer Cost in Massachusetts?

In the state of Massachusetts, the title transfer fee is $75. If you purchased a new vehicle, you are also responsible for paying the sales tax based on the NADA value of the purchase price. Keep in mind, you will also have to pay registration fees. You must obtain an insurance stamp, and the car needs to be inspected within 7 days of the purchase date.

Where Can I Go to Transfer a Vehicle Title in Massachusetts?

There are multiple locations in MA where you can transfer a vehicle’s title.

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (Watertown Service Center)
550 Arsenal St
Watertown, MA 02472
(857) 368-8000

Monday-Friday (9 AM to 5 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (Watertown Service Center)
611 Main St.
Worcester, MA 01608
(857) 368-8200

Monday-Friday (9 AM to 5 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (Southbridge Service Center)
6 Larochelle Way, Southridge, MA 015500
(857) 368-8000

Monday-Friday (9 AM to 5 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)

How to Fill Out the Massachusetts Title and Title Transfer Forms

When you need to complete your Massachusetts vehicle title and vehicle title transfer forms, you need to make sure all the forms are filled out completely and the information you provide is accurate. You may be required to submit a bill of sale that provides information that pertains to the vehicle, such as its model, make, year, and color. You may also be required to include the vehicle’s VIN.

If you decided to sell a vehicle instead of gifting it, you need to add sales tax to the vehicle’s total price. In the “transfer of title by seller” section of the vehicle’s title, you need to provide an odometer reading. The recipient of the vehicle is required to sign the vehicle title in the provided spaces.

Additional documentation may include a valid MA vehicle insurance policy that meets or exceeds the state’s minimum coverage options. A valid government-issued photo ID may also be required, but if you don’t have one, a foreign passport will suffice.

My Car Title Was Signed But Never Transferred. What Do I Do?

Sometimes a vehicle’s title is signed and never transferred because the vehicle’s owner didn’t register the vehicle in their name. When a vehicle’s title isn’t transferred, it has an open title.

With an open title, the owner/seller of the vehicle does not assume any responsibility for the vehicle, such as taxes and other applicable fees.

In the event the seller lost the vehicle’s title will be temporarily open. The vehicle’s seller needs to request a duplicate Massachusetts vehicle title (Form T20558). Once the vehicle title is obtained, the seller of the vehicle needs to sign the title over to you so you can put the vehicle in your name.

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