My husband bought a car. Only his name is on the title because my credit is not good, but his is very good. But I am going to pay the car loan and the insurance.

I would like to know if it's possible for him to add me to the car title and registration?

If he can add me, would it mean that I would own half of the car, or would he still be the full owner?

Even though I hope it never happens, I'm afraid that if someday we divorce or he died I will lose the car I'm paying for.

  • 22
    I have to point out that, since your husband has taken out a loan to buy the car, neither he nor you actually OWN it. The bank/finance company does, and the title should reflect this.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 18:22
  • 1
    I think this all depends on the marriage contract and the will.
    – the_lotus
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 12:03
  • 2
    If you are paying for the loan, then make sure you have a written record of every payment. If you can, get your husband to write a letter stating what's going on. Tell him it's in case he dies suddenly or becomes hospitalised or something similar. I know women who've been cheated in exactly this way. Hubby does a runner and takes house and car ownership with him. Not suggesting that he would, of course.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:15
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    @jamesqf That's not actually how this works, at least in my state. I bought a car a few years ago using financing, and my name is on the title. Legally speaking, I'm the owner. The finance company has a lien on the title until the loan is repaid (I live in MN, and as I'm writing this I see that one of the answers below covers that this varies by state).
    – Brian
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 19:43
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    @jamesqf Well, you can certainly put it that way. I won't argue about taking the attitude of "it's not really mine until it's paid off" -- but the details matter sometimes. For example, if the finance company actually owns the car, they can sell it out from under you...with a lien, they can't. Details like that are why legalese got started in the first place!
    – Brian
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 16:11

4 Answers 4


A loan company will only grant your husband a loan on a car he wholly owns. This is because the loan company needs to be able to repossess the car if your husband defaults. They can't do that if someone else owns the car.

You could probably have had joint ownership if you had taken out a joint loan rather than having him take it out. The practicality of that would depend on how bad your credit was. In any case it's too late now without refinancing the car.

In the case of divorce, all assets including the car will be split by the courts, or by what you agree to. Your payments towards the car will be taken into account. If you are really concerned about what happens to the car in case of your husband's death, get him to leave it to you in his will. In many countries a person inherits their spouse's assets by default anyway.

  • 19
    The last paragraph addresses the heart of the matter. +1. Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 23:12
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    While she would presumably inherit the car she would likely have a problem, though--they're probably going to want the loan refinanced at that point and her poor credit will interfere. The only defense I see against that would be life insurance. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 0:17
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    This is the big difference between marriage and "shacking up".
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 3:33
  • @RonJohn In the eyes of the law not so much. In some jurisdictions you only have to live with some twelve months before you are entitled to some share of property on separation. Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 13:12
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    @DJClayworth #1 there are a lot of jurisdictions, and only some offer this protection. #2 You're guaranteed that protection in marriage.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 13:24

If you live in one of the following nine states; Montana, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky, New York, or Maryland, you’ll receive the title to the car even if it isn’t paid off. You can also add another name to the title without the lending institution’s permission.

In any other state, the lending institution actually owns the car, so no, your name cannot be added to the title until the loan is paid off.

Once you are eligible to be added to the title, if you have the title read "Joe Smith or Jane Smith," this means either of you holds the title in full and can sell it without the other person's permission. It will not be subject to a will. If the title reads "Joe Smith AND Jane Smith", both of you must sign in order to sell the car. Neither of you owns it alone in full. If one of you dies, the car could be subject to what is written in a will.

  • Good point with the AND or OR - this also applies to checks (as my wife discovered when working in a foundation office where they had checks headed with Jane and John Smith) Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 17:58
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    The lending institution holds the title; they do not own the car.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 13:26

According to Atlanta attorney Anthony Zezima, Georgia is an "equitable distribution state" in regards to divorce law. In general, this means that property is treated differently depending on whether it was acquired during or prior to the marriage. Property acquired during the course of the marriage is divided between the spouses, regardless of whose name is on the title. Property acquired prior to the marriage is considered separate and not subject to division.

Note: I've paraphrased the source linked above rather than quoting it, since it is copyrighted in a way that does not permit me to quote it here. I'd advise going to that site and reading it, as I'm not a lawyer.

The case of death is different and also varies somewhat by state. It is usually advisable to have a will specifying how your property will be distributed after death regardless of what state you're in. If you want to ensure that you'd inherit the car, it would probably be advisable for your husband to have a will stating this. In some states, spouses can claim some portion of the deceased's estate regardless of what the will says, but this varies by state.


You should have had the car in both your names so that you can establish credit. Your poor credit or lack of credit does not make it any more of a a risk to the bank if both of you are on the title. You are married and even if there were a divorce prior to the final payments, it would most likely be community property or involved in property settlements. However, having both of you on the title and showing you as making the payments would most assuredly improve your credit. In the future, tell him you want things in your name so you can establish and improve your credit. Raising your individual credit rating will raise your overall rating as a couple. There is a chance he may let you refinance it to do just that.

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