Paperwork When Buying a Car in Michigan

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Paperwork Required to Buy a Car in Michigan

Buying a car in Michigan requires some paperwork. If you buy a car from a dealer, they’ll usually handle the paperwork for you, but if you buy from a seller, you’ll need to take care of it yourself.

For the title transfer and vehicle registration with the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS), you’ll need the title and several other documents.

Read below to learn more about the paperwork you need when buying a car in Michigan.

Title Paperwork for MI Car Buyers

When you purchase a used car there are a few key documents that you will need to get from the seller:

  • The vehicle title, filled out by the seller and signed.
  • An odometer disclosure statement, either:
  • Lien release documents, if the seller financed the car.
  • An inspection certificate, if you are buying a salvage vehicle.

For more details about transferring a vehicle title, see our Title Transfers in Michigan page.

Buying Without a Title

If the title is lost, it will be easiest for you if the seller applies for a duplicate. However, you can still buy the car if:

  • The Michigan Secretary of State's computer system holds a record of the title.
  • The car is paid off.
  • Both you and the seller go to a Secretary of State branch office with the current registration or other proof of the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Bill of Sale

Though not mandatory, a bill of sale is an important document to have on file. It serves as your proof of purchase and protects you against any possible discrepancies when determining your vehicle's registration rate. You can easily download a bill of sale form.

Michigan Registration Paperwork

Once you buy a car, you have 15 days to title and register it in your name.

You will need to go in person to your local Michigan SOS office with the following documents:

  • The vehicle title.
  • Identification for all new vehicle owners, such as your MI driver’s license.
  • Proof of car insurance.
  • Payment for fees and taxes:
    • Sales tax: 6% of the purchase price.
    • Registration fee: Varies by vehicle type.
    • Title transfer fee: $15.

See our Register a Car in Michigan page for more information about vehicle registration.

Transfer Your Vehicle Registration

You can transfer your vehicle registration and license plates from your old car, assuming that the plates are still valid.

To transfer the registration and plates with the MI SOS, you’ll need all of the required registration documents listed above, PLUS:

  • Your current registration.
  • The license plate number of the registration you are transferring.

The transfer fee is $8. You’ll also have to pay the difference if the registration fees for your newly bought car are higher than the fees for your previous car.

Vehicle History Reports

When buying a used car, issues that might not be immediately apparent from the exterior can cost you money down the road, so it’s helpful to do a little extra paperwork to be aware of issues before buying the car.

A vehicle history report gives you important information about a vehicle’s past based on its vehicle identification number (VIN). A report usually includes:

  • Accidents involving the vehicle.
  • Theft of the vehicle.
  • Past damage to the vehicle.
  • The approximate odometer reading.

This report will help you make a fully informed decision about whether or not you want to buy the vehicle and help you avoid sellers who intentionally mislead you or simply don’t know the vehicle’s history.

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