State Regulations in Maryland

Buying a car is always a big deal, whether it is a brand-new Mercedes or a used diesel Peugeot. Vehicle purchases involve much more than the exchange of money. There are high levels of stress, fear of being taken advantage of, wondering if the clunker you bought as a last resort will last a thousand miles, and all that paperwork.

Whether you are purchasing from a dealer or an individual who ran an ad in the Sunday paper, the key to the transaction is research. Knowing exactly what the deal entails before you go into it is half the battle. The other half is ensuring that you have the right documents in order to transfer the vehicle title into your name. This way you can register the vehicle and actually drive it on the roads and highways of Maryland.

Although we cannot go to the dealership or meet the seller with you, we do offer several tips on how to go to the sale prepared. It is also imperative when you are looking over a used car that you do more than simply kick the tires a few times. Those days are long gone and so are the cars you could do that with. Nowadays cars are like rolling computers and need thorough inspection. It is even worth the few extra dollars to run a vehicle history report on the vehicle.

But it is important to understand the transaction and its components, and that is what we will look at now.

The Transaction

To ensure the seller is released from vehicle ownership and the buyer takes over ownership, there are certain documents that need to change hands.


Perhaps the most important document in the deal is the title. If the seller can not produce a title―run away fast. There is no point in dealing with a who-knows-where-this-came-from vehicle when there are plenty of others out there to buy. If the title is simply missing, the seller can Application for Duplicate Certificate of Title (Form VR-018) through the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). So if a title is on the table then the transaction should be able to move forward.

For information on how to sell or buy a vehicle without a title, contact an MVA customer representative at (410) 768-7000 or for TTY (800) 492-4575.

What to do if you are the seller: ―In the "Assignment of Ownership" box on the title:

  • Record the buyer's name and address.
  • Note the agreed-upon price of the vehicle and the date.
  • Jot down the current odometer reading.
  • Sign and print your name.

What to do if you are the buyer: ―In the "Assignment of Ownership" box on the title:

Bill of Sale

The buyer and seller need to complete a bill of sale and have it notarized if the vehicle is 7 years old or less.

Notes to the Seller

Just prior to parting with the vehicle you will need to remove your license plates. Once the sale of the vehicle is made, you either need to re-register the plates to another vehicle or return them to an MD MVA office.

Notes to the Buyer

You can apply for a temporary registration form in order to have a bit of leeway to take care of the safety inspection. An inspection is required in order to complete the registration process. You will also need to have verifiable insurance for the new vehicle. Thus, the short-term registration will give you 30 days in order to complete these tasks.

Savvy Buying Tips

  • Do plenty of research. You can comparison shop and peruse local dealerships for the best prices online without ever leaving the sofa or office chair.
  • Determine the price you're willing to pay and start thinking of negotiation strategies.
  • Don't let yourself be pressured into buying something you don't want if you do not find exactly the perfect car. Options cost a ton, and if you don't need them and they are cramping the price you wanted to pay, don't give in. You can always order the vehicle you want. It may take longer, but it's definitely an option.
  • Compare lenders. You may not get the best deal from the dealership's financing partner. So look around; it may save you a ton of cash in the long run.
  • If you are offered a service contract, analyze it closely to make sure it is well over and above the warranty that comes standard from the manufacturer.
  • If you are trading in a vehicle, make sure you are aware of its value before heading to the dealership. This gives you more negotiating power and prevents you from getting taken. Kelley Blue Book and the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) are great resources without a fee.


Application for Certificate of Title
Apply for a MD vehicle title through the Motor Vehicle Administration.
Application for Duplicate Certificate of Title
Request a duplicate Maryland title from the MVA.
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