Cars are expensive assets. Buying, maintaining and selling them requires attention to detail, not to mention a fair degree of liability. Therefore, you usually must get a title to represent your ownership stake in the vehicle. Here's how it works in Florida.
Florida Titling Requirements
A vehicle's title is the official proof that someone owns it. This is a legally-binding document that the owner will need to maintain as long as they own the vehicle. When they eventually sell the vehicle, they will transfer the title to another party. The title will then become the new owner's responsibility to maintain.
In Florida, most motor vehicles must have titles. A titling requirement applies to nearly all motor vehicles (cars, RVs, motorcycles) and vessels (boats, etc). The only exceptions are certain motorized bicycles, mopeds, and trailers that weigh less than 2,000 pounds.
So, if you buy a car in Florida, you will have to title it. Your vehicle seller will help you determine the appropriate documentation you need to do so. Furthermore, if you move to Florida from another state, you will have to transfer the vehicle's title from your previous state of residence. Various rules and fees on the registration process will apply.
Understanding Co-Ownership And Lienholders
Usually, the car's owner — or someone with a financial stake in the vehicle — is the titleholder.
Keep in mind, though, that even though you drive a car doesn't necessarily mean you own it. Therefore, you might not be the legal holder of the title. Sometimes, you aren't the sole person who has a financial interest in the vehicle.
For example, you and your spouse might decide to jointly own an RV. Therefore, you might both have to apply for and sign the titling document. If you want to eventually transfer the vehicle to your sole ownership, there is a legal process to do so. There is also a process to grant power of attorney to another party regarding the ownership decisions for your vehicle.
In other situations, when you buy your vehicle, you might finance it, or owe money to another party through a payment plan. This party, whether a bank or individual, is a lienholder. They still have a financial interest in the vehicle until you pay off the amount owed. They therefore have a right to have their name and information appear as such on the title.
In many cases, if you finance the car with a bank, they will hold the title on the vehicle until you pay off the loan. Florida is one of the states that allows lenders to keep hold of the title until the end of the loan, when you will own the vehicle outright. You will then receive the title.