Last year I needed to buy a car, but my credit was bad, so my girlfriend at the time let me use her credit to buy it. Now almost 2 years later I have to buy a different car so I can take out of the title. My question is, can I go and buy a car and turn mine in even if my car is under her name? Does she have to be present?

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    Your girlfriend's name is on both the car title and the loan paperwork?
    – Ben Miller
    Dec 13, 2018 at 21:11
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    Right we will first need to know which names are on the title, i.e. who has ownership of the car, and which names are on the loan, i.e. who is financially responsible for the car. As it generally goes, the person who applies for financing typically goes on the title. We'd need to know if you are on the title.
    – CKM
    Dec 13, 2018 at 21:17
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    The title says "refinance" but the body of the question, "buy a difference car". No offense intended, just trying to clarify. When it comes to personal finance, the exact details are important. Dec 13, 2018 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


If we deconstruct the question to its constituent pieces, it sounds like you want to discharge the loan on your (ex-girlfriend’s) existing car, sell it and take out a loan to buy a new car.

Well, you are allowed to pay off the loan on the old car, subject to early discharge conditions. You are also allowed to apply for a loan on the new car. But if the old car is not in your name, it isn’t yours to sell.


As the car title is in your girlfriend's name, she is the registered owner of the car. Lender is the legal owner of the car.

There are couple of options:

  • Let the girl friend trade-in the car: As the title is under your girlfriend's name, she has to visit dealership to trade-in the existing car, there are paper works, where dealership will take care of paying-off existing loan and factor that in the price of the new car. New car will be in your girlfriend's name.

  • Pay off the loan and girl friend can gift the title to you: Once the loan is paid off, your girlfriend can gift the car to you. When the car is in loan, she cannot gift the car to you. Once the title is in your name, you can trade in the car, as the title is in your name. In this case, girl friend need not be present for trade-in, as the car title is in your name.

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    I had to downvote this because the statement 'the lender is the legal owner of the car' is simply not true, though it is a commonly repeated statement. If you lease a car, you don't own it, but if you buy a car, you own it, even if you take a loan out to do so. Yes, it is true that the bank has certain rights over your car in the form of a lien, to make themselves whole if you sell it or similar, but that's not the same thing as them owning it. Oct 19, 2020 at 13:10
  • @Grade'Eh'Bacon, Thanks for taking time to clarify downvote. When I was in USA, in my title there were two owners mentioned: registered owner and legal owner. Once I paid off loan, I became the legal owner of the car. quickautotags.com/blog/… Oct 19, 2020 at 15:47
  • Looks like this is very jurisdiction specific; California does love their special rules! I've removed the downvote as OP (or someone else seeing the answer) may be in CA, but a caveat on that would help. Oct 19, 2020 at 17:09

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