Dealer Licensing in North Carolina

If you want to sell motor vehicles in North Carolina, you may need a car dealer license (and an established place to do business) before you get to selling. Keep reading to find out if you'll need a dealer license and, if so, how to get one.

Do You Need a NC Dealer License?

You need a North Carolina car dealer license if you plan on doing any of the following:

  • Buying, selling, or exchanging at least 5 motor vehicles for compensation over the course of 12 consecutive months on your own behalf, regardless of who owns the vehicles.
  • Arranging, offering, and/or attempting to sell or negotiate the sale, purchase, or exchange of at least 5 motor vehicles within 12 consecutive months for compensation on behalf of someone else, regardless of who owns the vehicles.
  • Wholly or in part selling at least 5 motor vehicles that are new and/or used during 12 consecutive months, regardless of who owns the vehicles.
  • Offering to sell and/or display at least 5 motor vehicles for compensation over a period of 12 consecutive months.
  • Leasing or renting motor vehicles and offering customers the option to buy those vehicles at retail price.

These definitions can be a bit tricky, so if you aren’t sure whether you’ll require a dealer license, call the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at(919) 715-7000 and ask for the License and Theft Bureau, which oversees dealer licensing in the state.

Other Car Dealer License Types

On this page, we outline the basics for people who want the most common motor vehicle dealer licenses (i.e. new car dealers, used car dealers, and new and used car dealers). However, other kinds of dealer licenses include those for:

  • Manufacturers: You manufacture or assemble new motor vehicles or import new motor vehicles for distribution using a distributor.
  • Distributors: You sell or distribute new motor vehicles to new motor vehicle dealers.
  • Wholesalers: You sell or distribute used motor vehicles to motor vehicle dealers.

You can find details about applying for credentials above in the Motor Vehicle Dealer and Manufacturer Regulation Manual (REV 2023).

Requirements for NC Car Dealerships

Before you can get a car dealer license, you must have an established salesroom, meaning your place of business must:

  • Have at least 96 square feet of floor space in a permanent enclosed building, separated from any other businesses and/or residences.
  • Be the permanent place where you conduct business.
  • Have space to safely store business books, records, and files.
  • Have reasonable hours of operation when the public can contact you.
  • Display a sign with your business name in block letters at least 3 inches high in colors that contrast with the sign’s background.
  • Follow all state, county, and municipal zoning regulations.

Once you have your salesroom squared away, call the License and Theft Bureau office that’s local to your dealership to schedule an inspection. Reference the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Minimum Dealer License Requirements (Form LT-415) for a list of local inspectors and phone numbers.

Apply for NC Dealer License

When putting together your dealer license application, keep the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Minimum Dealer License Requirements (Form LT-415) handy. This is a checklist provided by the License and Theft Bureau you can refer to for the application and business location requirements you need to fulfill.

Below, we’ve given a general outline of what you’ll need to provide when applying for your NC dealer license:

  • A completed Application for New Dealer License or Changes to Existing License (Form VS-400B).
  • The record of inspection to prove your dealership meets all of North Carolina’s business location requirements.
  • An original surety bond, cash bond, or fixed value equivalent of a bond in the amount of:
    • $50,000 for 1 established salesroom.
    • $25,000 for each additional established salesroom.
  • If your business is a corporation, the 1st page of the corporate charter your received from the  North Carolina Secretary of State after filing Articles of Incorporation.
  • The policy number for the required comprehensive liability insurance to cover your dealer license plates.
  • Evidence you filed an assumed name with the Register of Deeds in the county your business is located IF you’re operating under any name other than what will appear on the dealer license certificate.
  • If you’re applying to sell used cars: Proof you completed a dealer education course.
    • You must complete the course at some point during the 12 months leading up to your application.
    • Courses for new applicants last 12 hours; when you renew your dealer license, you’ll need to complete a renewal course that lasts 6 hours.
  • Payment for the applicable fees:
    • Dealer license: $97.
    • Dealer plates: $38.75 per plate for the initial 5 plates, and $38.75 per plate after that.

ADDITIONALLY, you’ll need to buy a “Trader’s” license from the business licensing agency in the city or county your dealership will be in, though, you don’t need to submit it with your dealer application.

Once you’ve completed each requirement and have the documents to attach to your completed application, mail everything to:

North Carolina Department of Transportation
Division of Motor Vehicles
3129 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

Dealer license applications are a lot of work! If you need help along the way, call the DMV at (919) 715-7000. 

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