Paperwork When Buying a Car in Washington

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Paperwork Required to Buy a Car in Washington

When you buy a used car in the state of Washington, you need to first ensure you obtain certain documents from the seller.

You will need to obtain the bill of sale and vehicle title, in addition to other documents that you’ll need to register your vehicle. Moreover, the car will need to pass a vehicle emissions test.

After you have all of the necessary paperwork, you can register your vehicle with the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL). You will then be issued new license plates for your car.

Title Paperwork for WA Car Buyers

When you purchase a car in Washington, you must ensure that the seller provides you with certain documents. You’ll need this paperwork for your records as well as for registration purposes.

If you buy the car from a dealership, the paperwork will be handled for you.

However, if you buy from a private seller, make sure you get the following documents from the seller:

  • Vehicle title: Both you and the seller must sign and date the title.
  • Bill of sale: Both you and the seller must complete purchase information on the Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale (Form TD-420-065).
  • Odometer disclosure statement: The seller can either enter this information on the title certificate or on a form available from the Washington DOL.
  • Emissions certificate: Vehicles registered in certain counties must have a valid emissions certificate before they can be registered and operated.

You must transfer the title into your name within 15 days of buying the vehicle, or you could face a fine of up to $125.

Buying a Car Without a Title

A title is imperative. You can't complete an official sales transaction without one. In these cases, the seller must visit a vehicle licensing office and request a replacement vehicle title. Be prepared to wait, though, as processing takes up to 10 weeks.

Another option for the seller, when replacing a lost title, is to apply for a "quick title". A quick title can only be applied for in person, by the owner, at a Quick Title office. The base fee for the quick title is $50 plus any other title fees and up to a $12 service fee in some offices. The good news is the title will be given to the owner on the spot.

Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is required for registering and titling your vehicle. Plus, its a valuable document to have for your files should there ever be a question regarding your vehicle's sales and use tax rates. You can, if needed, easily download a generic bill of sale form.

Washington Registration Paperwork

You can register the vehicle with the WA DOL:

You will need the:

  • Vehicle title.
  • Bill of sale.
  • Odometer disclosure statement.
  • Emissions Testing Report, if applicable.
  • Your valid WA driver’s license.
  • The Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form TD-420-001).
    • This form must be notarized if you mail in your paperwork.
  • Payment for taxes and fees:
    • Use sales tax (varies by county).
    • An additional 0.3% motor vehicle sales/use tax.
    • Vehicle registration fee (varies by vehicle type and weight).
    • Title transfer fee of $25.50.

After the required documents are submitted and the fees are paid, you will be issued new license plates within 10 weeks.

For more details about vehicle registration, see our Register a Car in Washington page.

Avoiding Fraud When Buying a Car

Although there is no sure-fire way to know if the seller is being honest about a used car, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

You can have a certified mechanic inspect the car to look for vehicle tampering, and verify the authenticity of paperwork from the seller by checking for any liens against the vehicle and ensuring the car meets WA’s clean air requirements.

A vehicle history report is the best way to ensure accuracy of the information the seller provides you. Based on the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), you can check a vehicle’s:

  • Ownership history.
  • Odometer reading.
  • Repair history.
  • Accident involvement.

Obtaining this paperwork can help protect you from fraud and other problems related to used vehicles.

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