Vehicle / Vessel Transfer Documents

A. How to Transfer Vehicle (e.g. Car) Ownership

Most people think buying and selling a car is easy. The buyer pays money, and the seller hands over the keys. Unfortunately, like buying a house, or getting a mobile phone, transferring ownership of a car from one person to another requires a lot of documents. One will need to register the transfer with the transport department/vehicles registry so that they can become a registered owner. In addition, there is auto insurance that needs to be cancelled or transferred.

The transfer of vehicle ownership is a legal process. Without transferring the ownership of the car to the buyer, the seller/ previous owner is still technically the owner of the vehicle. It would not be beneficial for the buyer to have paid money for something that is not under his / her name. On the other hand, it is not good for the seller either to continue to be responsible for the vehicle which is driven by the buyer.

1. Buying through a dealer

When you buy or sell through a dealer, the dealer will usually process all the documents on your behalf. All you need to do is to present your ID card, proof of current residential address, and sign on the dotted line. The dealer will transfer the vehicle to your name, conduct a road condition check and obtain a roadworthy certificate, perform actual registration and issue a new original registration certificate. You pay for the car and drive away.

2. Buy from Private Sellers

To change ownership in a private sale, the new owner must go to the vehicle registration centre to perform the transfer of the documents mentioned herein below.

3. Documents Required for Transfer of Ownership of Vehicle

In most common law jurisdictions, the following documents are generally required:

  • A copy of the new and previous owner's ID (these do not require authentication) – please ensure that it is the same name and address as the owner under the original vehicle registration certificate.
  • Proof of address of the new owner (a bank letter, rates, or any utility bill is sufficient)
  • The original vehicle registration certificate provided by the original owner - this provides proof of the existence and proof of ownership of the car. The original should be kept in a safe place and if damaged, replacement of proof of ownership can be sought from the vehicle registry.
  • Application Form for Transfer of Vehicle Ownership
  • Road Worthiness Certificate. This is to disclose details of any vehicle damage to protect the buyer. Also include the current odometer reading.
  • Appropriate Fees to be paid.

For private sale of the vehicle, you may also want to document it with a Bill of Sale. A Bill of Sale is a document that transfers ownership of the vehicle from the seller to the buyer by the transfer of possession to the new owner. 

If you have any doubts about the authenticity of the ownership documents, you can easily request a copy from the Licensing Office for a small fee and verify the information.

4. Transfer of Risk and Title

Vehicles registries track the whereabouts of every vehicle on the road, who owns it, and from what day.  When the ownership of a vehicle changes, the address, and responsibilities of all aspects of the car also change. Thus, it is important to complete the registration of the transfer of the vehicle with the correct date of transfer because once the transfer is registered at the registry, the responsibility for overall ownership, finances, insurance, fines, and any legal liabilities falls on the new owner.

B. How to Transfer Vessel (e.g. ship or boat) Ownership

The transfer of ownership of a ship/boat is similar to the transfer of a vehicle. However, as the ship/boat is normally docked at the waterfront, it is normally done by a Bill of Sale. Bills of Sale transfer ownership of the vessel from the transferors (original vessel owners) to the transferees without having to move the ship/boat by the transfer of possession to the new registered owner. 

As with the transfer of vehicles, once the Bill of Sale is signed, it should be registered with the relevant shipping registry as soon as possible in order to transfer the risk and vessel title. From the moment the transfer is registered at the registry, the responsibility for overall ownership, finances, insurance, fines, and any legal liabilities falls on the new owner. 


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