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Paperwork When Buying a Car in Texas

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Use this guide to learn more about the paperwork requirements of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to title and register a car following a purchase.

Paperwork for Texas Car Buyers

When you buy a car in Texas, you'll need to obtain certain documents from the seller before you can properly transfer ownership. The paperwork you may need will vary based on whether you purchased your car from a dealership or a private seller.

Dealership Sales

When you buy a car at a Texas dealership, the dealer typically provides the TX DMV with the paperwork required to transfer the vehicle into your name.

However, if you find yourself needing to bring the paperwork to the DMV yourself, make sure you obtain the applicable documents, including:

  • A Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (MCO), if your car is brand new and has never yet received a Texas title.
  • The current title, if you bought a vehicle previously owned and titled.
  • A dealer's invoice to function as your receipt and proof of any sales tax paid.

Private Party Sales

If you purchase a car from a private seller, you'll need to receive certain documents from the seller to complete the titling and registration process yourself.

Here's what you'll need from the seller:

  • The vehicle's title*, signed by you and the seller and including the:
    • Odometer disclosure.
    • Sale date.
    • Purchase price.
  • An Application for Texas Title and Registration (Form 130-U).
    • This is required to be provided by the seller and must be signed by both parties before the sale is complete.
    • Supporting documents such as lien paperwork or a power of attorney may need accompany the title application (if applicable).
  • An emissions certificate, if applicable.
    • Emissions testing is only required for certain counties and model years. Visit our page on Texas vehicle inspections for more.
  • A current Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR).
    • Needed for all vehicles currently registered in Texas.

The Texas DMV recommends visiting your local county tax office with the seller to transfer ownership. The DMV can help you to determine if the title is being transferred correctly, and if the title is salvaged or has any other similar legal issues.

* NOTE: If the seller doesn't have a title or it is in unusable condition, they should apply for a new title PRIOR TO THE SALE by completing an Application for a Certified Copy of Title (Form VTR-34).

If you lose the title after the sale and the original seller cannot be contacted, you may apply for a title by providing the Texas DMV with:

Texas Vehicle Registration Paperwork

Once you have the applicable paperwork listed above from your seller, bring your documents to your local TX DMV office along with the following:

  • Lease or lienholder paperwork, if applicable.
  • Payment for the fees due, including:
    • Registration fee: $51.75.
    • Title fee: Varies according to county.
  • An Application for Registration Purposes Only (Form VTR-272).
    • Needed for vehicles with a lien and previously registered out-of-state.

For full details on titling and registering your new car in Texas, visit our following guides:

Car Buying Resources

While most sellers are honest, it's always a good idea to use caution when purchasing a vehicle.

To protect your investment and prevent fraud, following these tips:

  • Have the seller accompany you to the DMV to complete the transfer of title.
    • The DMV agent will be able to tell you if the title is correct or if it has any existing legal issues.
  • Get the vehicle inspected by a trusted local mechanic.
  • Check each of the vehicle identification number (VIN) plates.
    • Look for signs of tampering.
    • Make sure the VIN plates match the VIN on the title.
  • Order a vehicle history report.

When purchasing a new vehicle you'll also want to make sure you have it insured. You can find out everything you need to know about this topic in our insurance center.

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