How to junk a car in California

If you want to junk a car for cash in California, but you lost your car title, there is no need to panic. While a title to sell a car for cash is required, all states have a process for requesting a duplicate if it is lost or stolen.

In the state of California, after selling a vehicle (or transferring ownership), you are required to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that ownership of the car has changed. This is by completing the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability.

The NRL is a document that notifies the transfer of ownership of the car. But keep in mind that the NRL does not by itself remove the seller’s name from the car registration. If you want to know more about it, keep reading.

Dealing with a lost title of a car in California

Notification to DMV must be made within 5 days from the date the car title is sold or transferred and possession of the car is handed over to another owner.

Only the buyer’s transfer request, with the endorsed title received from the seller, can remove your name from the vehicle registration. Once you’ve applied for a new title at the DMV in California, it should arrive in a week or two.

If you need the title immediately, some states will print the titles immediately for an additional fee. The solution here is to write a bill of sale with your car details included, your contact information, and carry your signature and that of the buyer.

Noticing it makes it even more legitimate. Then the buyer fills out some other forms and documents to get a new title to register the car in their state.


Data necessary to the NRL

  • Car registration / plate.
  • Last 5 digits of the VIN – Vehicle Identification Number.
  • Vehicle brand.
  • Year and model.
  • Name and address of the new owner.
  • The odometer reading of the vehicle on the date of sale or transfer.
  • Sale date.
  • Name and address of the seller.

It should be noted that if any of these data is missing, it will not be possible to update the car registration. This may lead to the disclaimer of the seller and former owner not taking effect.

After submitting an NRL online, the car registration will be updated within 1 business day. If you want to have records of the process performed online, print a copy of the confirmation you receive after submitting the NRL to the DMV.

It is also possible to submit a paper copy instead of online by completing the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability before mailing it to the address on the form.

Why should I deregister a car I just sold?

In California, as well as in any other state, deregistration is a necessary step when you junk a car. This allows you to free yourself from any type of responsibility for problems and situations that may arise with a car that is no longer in your hands.

Deregistering serves as a form of protection when selling your car or transferring it to a third party. If you skip this process, in case the new owner has an accident or receives a ticket, it will be recorded in your history.

Besides, if you do not notify the change of ownership, you will remain responsible for paying:

  • Annual tuition.
  • The Smog Check.
  • Among other costs associated with the vehicle.


Failure to transfer the vehicle to the new buyer could hold the seller liable for fines, traffic violations, civil litigation, and even crimes committed with the car in question.

To avoid these problems and undue charges, the car must be deregistered, that is to say, communicate the transfer of ownership of the vehicle. In this way, the infractions that occur with that vehicle will be registered in the registry of the new owner.

Hence, you will not be charged for the costs associated with your old vehicle. We emphasize that the effective transfer of ownership of a vehicle depends on a series of steps that must be carried out by both parties: seller and buyer.