State Regulations in Illinois

Buying and selling a vehicle in Illinois is a straightforward process, but there are many details you must attend to during the transaction.

If you are buying or selling through a dealer, the dealer will walk you through all the necessary paperwork, including transferring the title.

If you're conducting a private-party sale, you are responsible for making sure the paperwork is handled correctly. And in the case of buying a used vehicle from someone you don't know, it pays to do a little research first.

Transferring Ownership

Sellers must:

  1. Provide the official title at the time of delivery, signed over to the buyer.
  2. Remove their own license plates from the vehicle.

Buyers must:

  1. Register the car immediately at a Secretary of Stateoffice that provides vehicle services.
  2. Title the car in their name within 20 days of purchase.

Used Car Buyers Beware

Buyers of used cars are urged to be especially vigilant that they are not being stuck with a salvaged vehicle whose title has been "cleaned" by multiple transactions through several states. Especially in wake of so many flood-damaged cars being resold in today's market.

Examine any used car carefully for signs of water damage, grit or sand in unexpected places, irregular staining or fading, and musty odors. This applies whether you are buying a car from a private individual or from a licensed dealer. In the case of a "cleaned" title, even a car dealer may not be aware that the car was previously salvaged.

Rebuilt Cars

If the title certificate of the car states that it is rebuilt, this doesn't just mean that it has been repaired―it means that it has been brought back out of salvage status by a licensed rebuilder. Many cars in this category have been wrecked and declared a total loss by an insurer . IL uses a formula to determine if a vehicle is a total loss. This is based on whether the vehicle’s cash value is less than or equal to the cost of repairs and the salvage value.

These "totaled" cars are then either sold for scrap or sold by the insurer to licensed rebuilders. In some cases, rebuilt cars can be a good deal, but not if you are deceived about their status.

Vehicle History Reports

You can order a vehicle history report on any vehicle you're interested in buying. These services conduct a title check to find any instance of that particular vehicle being titled in another state. If you have any doubts, the fees charged for the peace of mind provided by these services might be well worth it.

Among other things, a vehicle history report can also tell you how many owners the car has had, whether it has been involved in any accidents, and whether it has ever been used as a fleet vehicle (such as a taxi or rental car).

Buying Tips

The Illinois Secretary of State Department of Police handles vehicle buying and selling questions, problems, and disputes. Its Buying and Selling a Vehicle pamphlet is very useful. It contains a list of Secretary of State Police district offices as well as important tips for buyers.

Buying or Selling Without a Title

It just can't be done. The seller is required to provide the title to you when you purchase the vehicle. If the seller doesn't have the title, they must apply for a duplicate title. Likewise, if you are attempting to sell a vehicle for which you've lost the title, you'll need to get a new one. To do that, you must:

Submit to:

  • Office of the Secretary of State
  • Vehicle Records Processing Division
  • 501 S. 2nd St, Rm 424
  • Springfield, IL 62756

Note: Out-of-state residents cannot request a duplicate title unless they have a previous Illinois title. If you are attempting to purchase a vehicle without a title from someone in Illinois, the previous owner must apply for the duplicate title before the sale.

Buying or Selling Without Registration

Before you sell your vehicle, you should make sure you're legal and up to date with the Secretary of Stateoffice. If your registration has expired but you have not yet transferred ownership, you might still need to pay late fees or renew your registration for the remainder of the time that you own the vehicle. Of course, once you sign over the title, you're no longer responsible to keep up your registration.

If you're the vehicle buyer, you'll need to go through the usual steps to register your vehicle. Visit the Secretary of Stateoffice to pick up the proper title and registration applications. Call (800) 252-8980 to get help completing your application.

Your Friend the Lemon Law

The Illinois Lemon Law offers protection to buyers of new cars. If you have a persistent problem with a new vehicle, keep good records of both the problem and any repair attempts. You may be eligible for a refund or replacement.

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