DMV Alternatives to Buying & Selling

Once you've decided to purchase or sell a car, completing the required paperwork is necessary to finalize the transaction.

While this often requires you to submit forms and payment to your local DMV, you may not have to go through all the hassles of standing in long lines to make it happen.

Here are a few tips buyers and sellers can use to avoid visiting the DMV following the purchase or sale of a car or truck.

DMV Alternatives for Sellers

The steps you'll need to take after selling a vehicle will vary slightly from state to state. For most states, the following will be required of the seller after payment is received:

  • Complete a title transfer.
    • In some states, the back of the title functions as the bill of sale.
      • If your title does not have this section, you may need to complete a separate Bill of Sale form.
  • Provide a valid smog certification.
    • Not all states require this, so check with your local DMV to be sure.
  • Report the correct odometer mileage.
    • The title may also have a space to include the odometer mileage at the time of sale, which is required by most state DMVs.
    • If not, a separate form must be completed.
  • Complete a Release of Liability form.
    • Reporting change of ownership to the DMV is the seller's responsibility.
    • Completing this form and submitting it to your state DMV will release you from future liability.
      • For instance, if the new owner is fined for a parking violation or is involved in an accident, you will not be responsible.

Tips for Avoiding the DMV

To complete these requirements without visiting the DMV in person, use these tips:

  • Download the required forms from your state DMV website.
    • Most states provide many of the required forms on its website.
  • Make sure you have a clear title before you sell.
    • This means that the vehicle is free from liens and is yours to sell.
  • Contact your DMV to find out if you can submit your paperwork by mail.
    • In some situations, you may also be able to receive the required forms in the mail.

If you're able, send in your forms to the address provided by your DMV. If you still must visit in person, you've already done a majority of the legwork beforehand, giving you a higher likelihood of being at the DMV office for a shorter period of time.

DMV Alternatives for Buyers

The requirements for a buyer following the purchase of a vehicle are slightly different from those of the seller. After you've paid the seller and received the signed title, you'll need to:

  • Transfer ownership.
    • The signed title given to you by the previous owner will need to be submitted to your state DMV to transfer ownership into your name.
  • Submit the odometer mileage.
    • Often recorded on the title, this can also be submitted using a specific form that your DMV may require you to use.
  • Provide the smog certification.
    • If required by your state, proof of smog certification provided by the previous owner will need to be submitted.
  • Pay the transfer fee and tax, if applicable.
    • A fee is required by most states to transfer ownership from one person to another.

Tips for Avoiding the DMV

Note that it will be more difficult for buyers to avoid the DMV altogether following the sale than it is for the seller. Here are a few alternative options you can use to make the process as simple as possible:

  • Auto clubs.
    • Many states allow auto clubs to perform DMV services, including:
      • Registering a vehicle.
      • Applying for a duplicate title.
      • Submitting fees and paperwork following a purchase.
  • Insurance agents.
    • For problems or questions regarding state requirements, your insurance agent can often provide you with additional information.
    • This can help you to avoid making multiple or unnecessary trips to your DMV.
  • Third-party agencies.
    • Some states allow third parties to perform registration services following the sale of a vehicle.
    • These companies simplify the process and handle all the paperwork and fees so you won't have to.

The best idea is to call your state DMV agency beforehand to determine exactly what you'll be able to do outside of their offices.

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