California Electronic Liens & Titles (ELT)

The History of ELT in California

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) implemented the Electronic Lien and Title Program (ELT) in 1989. What follows is an excerpt from California's "Electronic Lien and Title Procedures Manual."

In 1986, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) met with financial institutions to conceptualize a system to capture, store, and electronically transfer legal owner records, in lieu of the hardcopy Certificate of Title process. Several major lienholders had requested an electronic process. DMV developed the "Paperless Title Pilot Program", but came to be known as the Electronic Lien and Title (ELT) program.

General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) was the first lienholder to commit to the project and joined the department in project development, July 1989. Concerns from allied businesses were addresses in the course of project development and representatives from the vehicle dealer industry, including auto auctions were involved.

In October of 1989, GMAC of Rancho Cordova, California, was the initial participant in the ELT pilot. The purpose of the ELT program was to suppress the printing of hardcopy titles for lienholder who participated in the program. The vehicle registration applications submitted by the selling dealer or the lienholder are processed by the department in the usual manner.

In October 2009, a bill was enacted that required the Director of Motor Vehicles to develop an ELT program for holding lienholders' title information electronically. Use of California's Electronic Lien and Title program would then become mandatory by 2012. The bill also allowed the director to establish an auto loan business volume threshold.

In January 2012, the DMV clarified their intentions regarding implementation. Program enrollment enforcement will begin on January 1, 2013 and will apply to all lenders excepting only businesses licensed to engage in the sale of automobiles and/or vessels.

As of July 2013, in addition to California, 17 other states (18 total) have implemented electronic lien and title programs. They are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Each state's program is unique depending on state laws and requirements, but all ELT programs significantly improved the lien and title process. Now bankers, credit unions, dealers, and other financial institutions no longer need to store and file paper titles. Lenders can electronically secure and release liens on titles using a web application developed by Decision Dynamics, Inc. called Premier eTitleLien™.

Premier eTitleLien™ was originally developed as a result of a partnership with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and the South Carolina Banker's Association to serve the various needs of lenders. This lender-designed program allows lenders to maintain control of their vehicle collateral while incorporating the benefits of electronic processing and communication.


Premier eTitleLien® Decision Dynamics, Inc.