State Regulations in Missouri
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While buying a new vehicle is certainly more exciting than purchasing a week's worth of groceries, the process is also much more complicated. To make sure your transaction is legal, you'll need to follow the Missouri Department of Revenue's (DOR) regulations for buying and selling motor vehicles.
You should never buy a vehicle if the owner can't produce a valid title. A title is proof that the seller is the legal owner of the vehicle. When you buy a vehicle without a title, there is no way to tell that the vehicle is not stolen property. In addition, the state of Missouri will not consider the sale valid without a properly assigned title―meaning you won't be able to transfer the title to your name and register the car.
If the seller has lost or damaged the original title, he or she will need to apply for a duplicate before selling the vehicle. Do not give the seller any payment for the vehicle until he or she can provide a valid title.
When you buy a vehicle, you will need to go to your nearest Missouri Department of Revenue office to have it registered in your name. This can be done when you are completing the paperwork for the title transfer. You should title and pay sales tax on your new vehicle within 30 days of your purchase. If you fail to complete the registration process within this time frame, you'll be assessed a late fee of between $25 and $200. Sales tax is assessed at 4.225% plus your local tax (where you live, not where you bought the vehicle).
If you purchased your vehicle to replace one of your previously owned vehicles, you may transfer the license plates from your old car or truck to your new vehicle. Otherwise, you'll need to purchase new plates for your vehicle.
To complete the registration process, bring the following to your nearest motor vehicle office:
- Proof of a valid auto insurance policy.
- Documents from any needed safety or emissions inspections.
- A paid personal property tax receipt or a statement of non-assessment from your county of legal residence, if you wish to buy new plates.
Payment for all license plate, titling, and vehicle registration fees must be made by cash, check, or money order. For details on estimating your taxes and fees, check out the DOR's website.
According to Missouri law, you can't sell your vehicle without giving the buyer a valid title. The Certificate of Title proves that you are the legal owner of the vehicle and thus permitted to make the sale. If your original title is lost or damaged, you'll need to complete the Application for Missouri Title and License and check the box marked "duplicate" to indicate an application for a duplicate title. The Missouri Department of Revenue will then mail you a new title that you can sign over to the buyer of the vehicle.
When you sell a vehicle, you are transferring the title and not the registration. Therefore, you should remove your license plates before giving the vehicle to the buyer. Although Missouri law does not allow you to receive a refund of unused registration fees, you are eligible to apply the excess payment to a new vehicle registration.
When you give your vehicle to the buyer, you must provide him or her with the following documents:
- A certificate from your most recent safety inspection.
- A current emissions inspection certificate, if you live in an area with this requirement.
- A lien release, if necessary.
The Missouri DOR requires that all residents report the sale of their motor vehicles within 30 days. This is done by submitting a completed Notice of Sale or Bill of Sale form to your nearest motor vehicle office.
To learn more about selling your vehicle, please visit the Missouri DOR's Motor Vehicle Bureau website.
If you are planning to give your vehicle to a friend or family member as a gift, you must give him/her the following documents:
- A properly assigned Certificate of Title marked with the word "GIFT" in the sale price area.
- A safety inspection certificate that is no more than 60 days old.
- A written statement indicating the vehicle was given to the new owner as a gift.
If you have questions about the procedure for gifting a vehicle, please contact your nearest motor vehicle office.
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