Buying and Selling FAQs in Michigan

Rules for buying and selling cars are different in each state. Keep reading to find answers to some of the most frequently asked question about buying and selling cars in Michigan. 

What is a bill of sale?

A bill of sale is a written document that helps to provide proof of transfer of ownership of personal property, such as a car. It is needed whenever you buy a car from a private seller (as opposed to a dealer).

It should contain important information including the purchase price of the vehicle, the sale date, a description of the vehicle, and the names of the buyer and seller.

DMV.ORG provides a generic bill of sale for your convenience.

I just bought a vehicle. How long do I have to file a title application?

You'll have 15 days from the date of the purchase. If you bought the vehicle from a dealer, the dealer will normally take care of this for you.

I'm buying a vehicle from a private seller. Who needs to sign the title?

Everyone named on the title must sign it. Should the vehicle have a lien on it, the lienholder will need to sign the title or a lien termination statement will need to be attached. And, of course, you'll need to sign the title, too.

If I'm buying a car from a private seller, do we have to finalize the transaction at a Secretary of State branch office?

No, you don't have to do this. But, the state recommends that you do, just in case either you or the seller have any questions about the proper procedures to follow.

Is it OK to buy a vehicle from a private seller without the title?

Not if you want to register it! The state outlines how to deal with these types of situations.

What should I do with the license plates on the vehicle I just sold?

Remove them immediately. You could always transfer them to a new vehicle.

The buyer will be able to legally drive home or to the Secretary of State branch office, provided the title is in the vehicle.

I believe I may have purchased a lemon. What should I know about Michigan's Lemon Law?

In a nutshell, Michigan's Lemon Law protects car buyers when they purchase or lease a "defective" vehicle―one that has not been repaired after 4 attempts or more for the same problem, or one that has been out-of-commission for 30 days or more due to repair.

You should check out our special Michigan Lemon Law section for more thorough details and how you can take action.

How much do temporary permits cost?

It depends on the length of the permit. But, permits valid 30 days cost 10% of the annual registration fee or $20, whichever is higher. And, permits valid 60 days cost 20% of the annual registration fee or $40, whichever is more.

Either way, tack on an additional $10 service charge on top of the fee.

How much do registrations cost?

Well, that depends, too.

For vehicle models 1983 or older, the cost is determined on the vehicle's weight. For vehicles after that, it's based on the manufacturer's suggested retail price.

How much do titles cost?

That's an easy one. They cost $15.

Where can I find out everything I need to know about registering and titling a vehicle I've purchased?

An excellent place to start is by looking at our registration and titling sections.

How much do car license plates cost?

If you just want the standard plate, there's no charge.

However, if you want to personalize your plate or order a specialty plate, it'll cost more. Michigan's Department of State has thoroughly outlined just how much more it will cost.

I've decided to purchase a vehicle from another country. Are there any special steps I have to take?

There are quite a few steps. The most important one is making sure the vehicle conforms to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) importation guidelines.

The NHTSA has conveniently outlined the Vehicle Importation Guidelines for you.

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