I recently went and purchased a new vehicle and had my girlfriend co sign and I traded in my old car as a down payment.

The finance department ended up writing up the paperwork listing her as the primary and me as the co signer, which was backwards. I am in the state of Missouri so I have learned that we both have equal rights to the vehicle.

My question is, whether or not a document exists that I can have her sign that would state that she will relinquish claim of ownership for the vehicle as long as I make all of the payments. Does such a document exists?

I have done a little reading and I know I can try and re finance in 6 months to a year and see if I can just get financed and have her removed but to err on the side of caution I would like to have a legal document in place to keep me from loosing my payments and money I have put into this vehicle if anything goes awry. Thank you all in advance, I greatly appreciate it.


4 Answers 4


TLDR: The title is the only thing that matters when it comes to owning the car. The loan is irrelevant

The primary/co-signer distinction has no bearing on who owns the car or who has to pay back the loan. All it does is tell the lender which of you to go after for the money first.

You are both on the hook for paying back the loan equally, and whoever is on the title owns the car. The loan arrangement does not change that.

Refinancing the loan won't change the ownership of the car. If you are not listed on the title you need to convince that person to sell or gift you the car, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Don't co-sign for loans. It is almost always a terrible idea.


The piece of paper she needs to sign is the one which makes the car entirely your property, not hers. In some states that starts with her signing over the title, and your taking that to the DMV to have a new title issued in your own name; other states may handle this differently.

You then need to do whatever else your state requires of someone who has just purchased or been gifted a car.

If she gets her finances in order quickly enough, you can then sell or gift it back to her the same way. If you don't think that will happen, sell the car and if you're feeling kind return whatever payments she made on it.

... As has been said in many other answers, never co-sign anything unless you would be willing to loan them the same amount -- because if anything goes wrong, that's what it turns into.

  • 1
    My rule is: Never co-sign. Ever. No loans. Ever. If you can afford it and want them to have the money, give them the cash. If you can’t afford or don’t want to pay, don’t give them anything.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 10:38
  • @gnasher729: There are times when calling it a loan saves face for the other person, and establishes the expectation that when their finances improve they will try to repay you... while leaving open the question of when or whether that will ever happen. I've got several loans outstanding of that sort. If they get repaid, great, and that's what we hope for... if they don't, that's acceptable, or I wouldn't have made the loan. For us, in both cases, that was a much better answer than either calling it a gift or refusing to help at all. Your mileage will, of course, vary.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 2:11

The key here is the bank, they hold the title to the car and as such have the final say in things.

The best thing you can do is to pay off the loan. Could you work like crazy and pay off the car in 6 months to a year?

The next best thing would be to sell the car. You will probably have to cover the depreciation out of pocket. You will also need to have some cash to buy a different car, but buy it for cash like you should have done in the first place.

The worst option and what most people opt for, which is why they are broke, is to seek to refinance the car. I am not sure why you would have to wait 6 months to a year to refinance, but unless you have truly horrific credit, a local bank or credit union will be happy for your business. Choose this option if you want to continue to be broke for the next five years or so.

Once any of those happen it will be easy to re-title the car in your name only provided you are on good terms with the girlfriend. It is just a matter of going to the local title office and her signing over her interest in the car.

My hope is that you understand the series of foolish decisions that you made in this vehicle purchase and avoid them in the future. Or, at the very least, you consciously make the decision to appear wealthy rather than actually being wealthy.

  • 6
    Your answer would be improved by toning down the insults and clarifying why refinancing or buying a car on credit are bad decisions.
    – Eric
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 2:31
  • @Eric buying a car on credit is a bad option, because used cars are cheap, and you don't need a credit to get them. Some of them have good fuel economy. They're just less fancy. Also if you buy a cheap enough car, you only need basic insurance, and you don't need a partner to buy it together. Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 23:26
  • 1
    @verybigcat Really? Used cars are cheap? Where have you been since the end of 2020? Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 23:48
  • @KevinArlin used cars and costs of maintaining them are still way cheaper than depreciation on a new car. If you buy a car that is above 15 years old, your depreciation cost is very close to zero, because it's worth nothing as you buy it, and it's still worth nothing then you scrap it, but it drives, and you only change the failing parts, which aren't as expensive as depreciation during first few years. Meanwhile an old sedan takes less fuel than a new SUV so many people tend to buy due to advertising. Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 7:47
  • @verybigcat Or you could buy a new electric car which was no maintenance costs, virtually no fuel costs, and far better performance on depreciation than a gas car. I have recently run the numbers on the costs of owning a 15-year-old hybrid SUV ($3500 upfront), a 10-year-old Prius ($10K), a new Chevy Bolt ($20K after rebates), or a new Tesla, ($40K after rebates) for five years and found I'd only save a few grand total with the ancient car, while risking not making it through the full five years; the other three were even. I agree buying a brand-new gas guzzler is financially unsound. Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 17:29

Your arrangements with the bank are irrelevant. Whoever is named on the title of the vehicle owns it. If she is the "primary", then I assume her name is on the title, therefore she owns the car. If you drive off with the car and it is titled in her name, she can report it stolen and have you arrested for grand theft auto unless you have a dated and signed permission in writing from her to use the car.

Point #2: If a car loan was involved, then you didn't "purchase" the car, the bank did.

If you want to gain ownership of the car, then you need to have her name removed from the title and have yours put in its place. Since the bank has possession of the title, this will require the cooperation of both your girlfriend and the bank.

  • 7
    I think the middle and end part is plain wrong. The loan giver doesn't purchase cars, it gives loans that are used to purchase cars. The purchaser is still the owner, the loaning company is just a lien holder, meaning they have a right to get paid from the value of the car.
    – Aganju
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 11:25
  • @Aganju I was being a bit facetious, but in fact it is the bank that buys the car. The money goes from the bank directly to the dealer, and the legal owner of record on the title will be the bank. Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 12:30
  • 4
    @FiveBagger The usual practice is for the bank to hold a lien on the vehicle which would be impossible if they were the legal owner of record. By definition, a lien is a claim against another's property. Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 13:04
  • 3
    @FiveBagger Punch "car title" into google and search for images large enough to read. The first five I found all list the buyer under owner and the bank under "Lien Holder". I checked Texas, California, and Oklahoma, all are this way. Question is about Missouri, and this is the case there too. Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 21:36
  • 4
    @FiveBagger That's not what that statute says. It has three clauses. The first two don't apply (the first is where there's no lien, the second is where there's a lease). The third says the bank is the legal owner in the event they are entitled to possession, that is, when you don't pay the loan. Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 22:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .