Michigan bill aims to allow electronic transfer of vehicle titles

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(The Center Square) –A new bill aims to allow the electronic transfer of titles or interest in vehicles.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified before the Senate Transportation & Infrastructure Committee supporting Senate Bill 533.

“Since taking office as Secretary of State, I have made it a priority to provide residents with convenient options that allow them to complete their transactions without needing to visit a branch office,” Benson said in a statement. “The Michigan Department of State has made great strides toward that goal. If passed, this bill would improve our department’s ability to serve the people of Michigan by giving them a faster online option for transferring their vehicle titles.”

Currently, Michiganders must present the original title including the signature of the seller and the buyer, an odometer disclosure statement, a statement from a loan provider, if applicable, and a driver’s license to the MDOS or a vehicle dealership to transfer a vehicle title.

Owners who can’t visit an officer can appoint an agent to do so on their behalf, according to the MDOS website.

The Michigan Electronic Filing System currently allows vehicle dealerships to process transactions such as title transfers and registrations. The Department’s Electronic Lien and Title System mandates, as of Oct. 1, that for most vehicles involving a lien, dealerships must provide individuals with an electronic title.

SB 533, if enacted into law, would cost MDOS about $550,000 to comply with bill requirements. The average cost for a state-classified employee for salary and benefits is an estimated $147,000 annually.

Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, sponsored the bill to permit the MDOS to establish a secure online electronic marketplace for private sellers and buyers to conduct transactions. The bill would allow MDOS to issue buyers an electronic title instead of a paper one like the department does today through the Electronic Lien and Title system.

In March 2021, Michigan joined over a dozen other states to allow the electronic exchange of lien and title information with lienholders instead of a paper certificate of title upon vehicle purchase financing.

In the last fiscal year ending Sept. 30, staff in Secretary of State offices across the state completed more than 930,000 of these private party title transfers for residents.

Federal data as of 2022 say the state has more than 7 million gasoline vehicles, 905,000 E85, 175,000 diesel vehicles, 62,800 biodiesel vehicles, 33,100 electric vehicles, and 24,300 plug-in hybrid electrics, all of which must have a title.

Since January 2019, MDOS has:

Doubled the number of services available onlineTripled the number of services available at self-service stations—and offered them in multiple languagesIncreased the number of transactions customers complete without an office visit from 28% to 60%

“By letting people conduct their business with our department outside of the branch, we have eliminated hours-long waits,” Benson said. “Secretary of State customers have taken notice. Google reviews, which used to average 2.5 stars out of 5, now average over 4 stars.”

The bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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