Paperwork When Buying a Car in Rhode Island

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Paperwork Required to Buy a Car in Rhode Island

When you buy a car in Rhode Island, you should work with the seller to properly secure the bill of sale, title, and the car’s old registration.

You’ll take all of this paperwork to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to title and register the car.

Read below for more information about the paperwork you need to properly register a car you buy in Rhode Island.

Paperwork for Rhode Island Car Buyers

When you purchase a car, the most important documents you will need from the seller are:

  • The bill of sale.
  • The title, if the car is a 2001 model year or newer, OR the car’s previous registration.
  • VIN inspection certificate IF the car is:
    • A 2001 model year or newer.
    • Purchased outside of Rhode Island.

You will also need proof of insurance when you register your car, so be sure to secure that information as well.

Title and Register Your Car in RI

If you buy a car from a dealer, they will usually process your title and registration paperwork for you.

However, if you buy from a private seller or from another state, you’ll need to transfer your title and register your car in person at your local RI DMV office.


You will need several documents to title and register your car:

  • The car’s title, which must:
    • Be signed on the back by the seller.
    • Include the current mileage of the car.
  • Your proof of insurance.
  • The bill of sale.
  • Your RI driver’s license or ID.
  • Your license plates, if you’re transferring them.


You will also need several forms:


Finally, you will need to pay the title and registration fees, as well as sales tax:

  • Title transfer fee: $51.50.
  • Registration fees: Vary based on vehicle weight and date.
  • Sales tax: Varies based on vehicle value.

For more information, see our pages Register Car in Rhode Island and Title Transfers in Rhode Island.

Registration Transfers

If you are transferring your registration and license plate from your old car, you can use your old license plates on your new car for:

  • Up to 20 days, if you buy from a Rhode Island dealer.
  • Up to 72 hours, if you buy from a dealer outside of RI.
  • Up to 48 hours, if you buy from a private seller.

To do this, the name on the registration must match the buyer’s name.

Buying a Car Out of State

You will have to have a VIN inspection at the local police department before registering a car purchased a car out of state that is a 2001 model or newer.

When you title the car, you can apply for temporary plates valid for 5 days as long as you have:

  • Have a current RI driver’s license.
  • Proof of residency.
  • RI car insurance.

Safety and Emissions Inspection

Your car must pass a safety and emissions inspection within 5 days of registering it.

Unless the car is classified as an antique, all vehicles require a safety and emissions inspection every 2 years.

Vehicle History Reports

A vehicle history report will tell you critical information about your car, such as whether or not it has ever been in an accident or flood.

Without a vehicle history report, it can be easy to be fooled by an exterior that has been repaired and hides potential damage underneath.

While some sellers might be completely upfront and honest, some sellers might not know or might try to hide aspects of the vehicle’s past, which could result in costly repairs down the road.

Always get a vehicle history report, which is based on the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), to make sure you know exactly what you are buying.

Rhode Island Lemon Law

Rhode Island has a lemon law that applies to used vehicles that have had the 3 attempts to repair the same issue, or are out of service for 15 days, within the dealer warranty period.

The law only applies to used cars bought from dealers.

If you think you might have bought a lemon, the first step is to bring it back to the dealership for repairs.

For more information, see our Lemon Law in Rhode Island page.

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