Is there a difference between a car title and registration card?
A car title is the automotive equivalent to the formal deed to your house—the proof that you own that car. You only have ONE of them (and replacing a lost one is a pain in the tushy—you’ve got to go to a licensing bureau and pay for a re-issuance). You transfer your title if you sell or give the car to someone else, or if you move (with the car) to another state. The registration, on the other hand, actually goes along with your license plate—and it’s the annual check by the state (for which they so graciously allow you to pay) that says you’re still driving THAT car, still insured and by whom, and how much more decrepit your auto is, after another year (ie, how many miles you’re driving. People actually used to get NEW PLATES every year with their registration—now, it’s new stickers—much cheaper to produce, change, and easier, by far, to mail.
The car title is generally a larger sheet of paper and contains vehicle information, owner information and when applicable, lienholder information. If the car is paid for, the title would be in the owner’s possession and if not, the title would be in the lienholder’s possession. The title proves ownership. After getting the title, you could park the car in a garage or a barn and never actually register it to drive on public roads. The registration card is generally smaller and is usually on card stock or plastic. It also contains vehicle information and owner information, but it also has the tag information. To register the car, you need proof of ownership (the title), and in most states, proof of insurance, and in some states, proof of safety and/or emissions inspection. The registration (and tag that goes with it) are what allow you to drive the car on public roads.
A title certificate is just that: evidence of title. It’s held by the owner of the car or by the lien holder if there is a loan outstanding. You wouldn’t normally keep it in the car as you need it to sell. We keep ours in a safe deposit box with other important documents. When you sell the car, the motor vehicle department will send a new one to the buyer. The registration card is issued by the State with your plates and is carried in the car to prove that it is validly registered. That’s what the cop wants to see when you get bagged in a radar trap.