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Buying a car―whether it be new or used―can be an exciting experience.
If you are buying a used car, it's a good idea to complete a history search on your car's background. It's also a good idea to have a mechanic check it out before you commit to buying it.
And, be especially wary if you're purchasing a salvaged vehicle. See our Salvaged Vehicles section on this site for details.
Now, excitement aside, you'll need to take care of some business, beginning with that pesky title.
If you're buying a vehicle from a dealer, the titling process is simple. The dealer is required to provide you (or your lienholder) with the title within 30 days of the purchase date. Just make sure that the dealer has the correct spelling of your name, as well as having your proper county.
Once you receive the title, you may then proceed with the next step―registration. This is covered in detail in our Car Registration section. Also, take a look at our License Plates & Placards section.
If you buy a vehicle from an individual, you will be responsible for the transfer of the title.
Both you and the seller will need to sign the existing title. Wait to do this until you are before a Notary Public.
If the seller can't find the original title, the seller will have to get a duplicate title from the county that issued the original.
The seller is not required to produce the vehicle registration at the time of the sale. However, showing the current registration to a prospective buyer may help facilitate the sale. For instance, the buyer will be able to see that the tags are legitimate and that the vehicle has passed recent emissions tests.
If the original title has two or more names on it, all parties must sign before a Notary Public. However, a person can sign for another person with a notarized Power of Attorney form.
Bring the following documents to any County Clerk of Courts title office:
- A completed Application for Certificate of Title
- Previous owner's title, signed over to you and notarized
- Bill of sale from seller
- Fee of $15.00 (plus $5 for each recorded lien)
If the vehicle is less than 10 years old, you'll also need to fill out the odometer statement on the back of the title. (If the existing title is the gold-colored title from past years, you'll need to request an Odometer Disclosure Statement from the title office.)
At the time of application, you will need to pay the sales tax in cash, certified check, or money order.
If you apply for a new title after 30 days from the date of the sale, you will be charged a $5 penalty fee.
For more details about this process, please see Title Transfers on this site.
Now, if you are making payments on your vehicle or have a loan using your vehicle as a collateral, make sure you receive a Memorandum Certificate of Title. This will enable you to get your license plates while the real title is still processing.
Once the lien or loan has been paid off, you will receive the original title certificate from the lender.
If you buy a vehicle that was previously titled in another state, you will need to bring the following documents to your local County Clerk of Courts title office:
- Existing title (must be original document)
- Completed Out of State Motor Vehicle Inspection form (completed by inspector and given to you after inspection is done.)
If you are buying a vehicle that has an out-of-state title, it will need to have an inspection. The inspection will verify the make, body type, model, mileage, and serial number or vehicle identification number (VIN). All deputy registrar's branches offer this service for $3.50. Many car dealers will also do this for you. You'll be given a completed inspection form to take to the title office. An extra $1.50 fee will be added there.
Find more information about buying a car on the BMV's information page.
If you are selling a vehicle, do not fill out the information on the back of the title until the sale has been finalized. Have the correct name and address of the buyer. If you make a mistake, the title becomes void, and you'll have to apply for a duplicate title.
If you can't find the original title, you will have to get a duplicate title from the county that issued the original before you can sell the car.
You are not required to produce the vehicle registration at the time of the sale. However, showing the current registration to a prospective buyer may help facilitate the sale. For instance, the buyer will be able to see that the tags are legitimate and that the vehicle has passed recent emissions tests.
You must also list the sales price of the vehicle, as well as the correct odometer reading. Sign your name exactly as it appears on the title, but wait to do so until you are before a notary public. It's a good idea to make a copy of the title just for your records.
A bill of sale is also a necessary document, and it's always a good idea to keep a copy for your records (the original will go to the buyer, but you can always make two originals if you want one too).
See more information at Bill of Sale on this site.
Also find more information about selling a car at the BMV's information page.Articles
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