If Two Names Are On A Title, Who Owns The Car?

If Two Names Are On A Title, Who Owns The Car?

When it comes to trading in one or more cars for a new one, some requirements need to be met. For instance, the person willing to sell the car is expected to present the current vehicle registration. This document is important to establish a link between the car and the owner.

Apart from the vehicle registration, another essential requirement is the auto loan payoff & account information. That’s not all; the most important document needed for a successful trade-in is the vehicle title. This certificate is a legal form, showing that a person is the legal owner of a vehicle.

Most times, a car title only comes with a single name as the legal owner of the vehicle. However, there are times where the title comes with two names written on it. In this case, both names are the owners of the vehicle. Depending on what’s (and/or) between the names, there may or may not be any right of survivorship.

Is it possible for a car to be in 2 people’s names? If yes, who exactly owns the car between the two names on the title? Furthermore, is it possible for one of the two names to sell the vehicle? Does it matter whose name is first on a title? In the rest of this post, you’ll find out answers to these burning questions and everything else you need to know about having two names on a single-vehicle title.

Can a Car Be in 2 People’s Names?

If Two Names Are On A Title, Who Owns The Car?

As previously mentioned, a car title is one of the many documents that you’ll sign when you just acquire a new or used vehicle. This paper is important as it’s what will establish that you’re the legal owner of the car. Furthermore, the registration of vehicle titles is state-run and monitored by the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in each state. 

Let’s go back to the burning question regarding whether or not a car can be in two names. The simple and direct answer is yes; two names can be included in the title document for a single car.

The local Department of Motor Vehicles in your state will certainly allow two or more names on the title document, this is referred to as joint ownership. Interestingly, the two names can also be on the vehicle’s registration document.

Joint ownership is pretty good for couples – married or not, siblings, parents & children, partners, etc. Furthermore, this could either be as “tenants in common” or “joint tenants, which comes with the right of survivorship.”

To register for a vehicle title in your state with joint tenants, you must be able to boldly tell the DMV agent that you own the car together in joint tenancy with right of survivorship or you’re tenants in common. This way, the agent will tell you exactly how to add the names of the co-owner.

Who Owns a Car When Two Names Are on the Title?

As earlier mentioned, joint ownership is in two different forms; tenants in common or joint tenants with right of survivorship. How you fill the names on the vehicle title certificate is what makes the difference. What’s important is that all the parties that’ll have their names on the title document must be around with you at the DMV to sign the necessary paper.

So, here’s a burning question; who owns a car when two names are on the title?

The answer is pretty simple; all the names on the title are co-owners of the car. Yes, only the parties that signed the title document have the right to claim ownership for the newly acquired vehicle.

In the case where the purchase of the car was financed but the debt hasn’t been paid in full, the lender (with a lien on the vehicle) will also be included on the list of names on the title. In this case, the lender, with the other parties that have their names boldly written on the document can claim ownership of the car.

If Two Names Are on a Car Title Can One Person Sell It?

If Two Names Are On A Title, Who Owns The Car?

Here’s another frequently asked question regarding having two names on a vehicle title; if two names are on a car title, can one person sell it?

The answer to the question is yes and no. That’s so because it depends on the type of joint ownership involved and exactly how the names are showing on the document.

In case you don’t know, the determining factor to put into consideration is the clause in between the names. Are the names joined by “OR”, “AND”, or is the title clearly showing “joint ownership with rights of survivorship?

In many states in the US, California for example, if the word “OR” is used in between the names on the title document, it means there’s a joint tenancy between the owners. This means the owners have the right of survivorship. That is, if one of the owners of the vehicle does, the second person can automatically take over as the sole owner.

However, in some other states, such as Virginia, if the names are joined by “and,”  this means that the owners don’t have any right of survivorship. In this case, each of the owners have the right to give the share of the vehicle to whoever they want.

The bottom line is, yes, one person can always sell the vehicle without having to wait for the signature of the other party.  However, this will only be possible if the conjunction in between the two names on the title is “OR.” In the case where the two names are only joined with “and”, both parties will have to be present to sell the car.

Does It Matter Whose Name Is First on a Title?

The simple and direct answer to the question is no; it doesn’t matter whose name comes first on a title document. Both parties involved have equal rights to claim ownership of the car. What really matters is the conjunction in between the names, which I have previously explained.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there! I'm Gui. To be honest, I'm not really that interested in cars. But what I'm really, really not interest in is spending lots of money fixing my car up. Thankfully, I have a father-in-law who's obsessed with cars and a brother getting a PhD in internal combustion engines, so I get to learn about fixing cars. And with Fixing Engines, I hope to help you save a lot of money and take good care of your cars.

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