How to Calculate Used Car Sales Tax

By: Nadia Ibanez July 9, 2012
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Most people like to know how much something costs before they buy it, right?

So, when buying a used car, take note: The price tag might not reflect the full cost of your vehicle. Hidden costs like auto sales tax might catch you off guard you after your purchase.

Learn how you can calculate auto sales tax in advance so an unexpected cost won't surprise you after you close the deal.

How to Calculate Used Car Sales Tax

You might be one of the lucky few whose state (such as Oregon and Alaska) doesn’t charge a dime for car tax, but in most parts of the country, the tax percentage ranges from 2%-6%.

If your state requires you to pay used car sales tax, you'll need to determine how much you owe. If you'd rather not crunch the numbers yourself, visit your local motor vehicle agency with your bill of sale for the vehicle. The person who assists you with titling and registering your new vehicle can tell you how much auto sales tax you owe.

If you prefer to determine this cost in advance, you'll want to take the following steps:

  • Determine the net purchase price of your vehicle. The net price reflects the listed cost of your auto, minus any trade-in discounts or other reductions.
  • Find out the auto sales tax rate specific to your state and city. Even if you purchased your new car in a different state, you will pay sales tax for the state where you register the vehicle. While tax rates vary by location, the auto sales tax rate typically ranges anywhere from two to six percent.
  • Multiply the net price of your vehicle by the sales tax percentage. Remember to convert the sales tax percentage to decimal format. For example, if your state sales tax rate is 4%, you would multiply your net purchase price by 0.04.

Once you calculate your auto sales tax, you'll have a fuller understanding of the complete costs associated with your car purchase. With the true price tag in mind, you can buy with greater confidence.

Has auto sales tax ever caught you off guard when purchasing a car? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.

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