State Regulations in North Carolina

Recently, buying a car has become much easier. With many car dealers and private owners now advertising online, it is easy to shop around from the comfort of your home. You can be as picky as you want without listening to a fast-talking used car salesman pressuring you. You can even do your own research to be sure you're getting the best deal.

For a small price, you can pay a service to check out the vehicle's history or verify the identity of the owner. Another benefit is that you can usually get a better price when you shop around online.

When you buy a car, whether it's from a dealer or an individual, be sure to look at the seller's title and registration for the vehicle before you buy it. If the vehicle has a salvage title, it means the car was previously "totaled" by an insurance company. There could be damage from an accident that makes the vehicle unsafe, or the vehicle may have been in a flood, hurricane, or other natural disaster.

If you have the VIN, you can also learn whether the car is a lemon and get its vehicle history report.

Importance of the Bill of Sale

When you buy from a dealer in North Carolina, you will receive a bill of sale. Bring this with you when you go to register your car. The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will use it to calculate the tax on your vehicle.

If you buy from an individual, ask for a bill of sale from that person as well. Although the DMV will calculate your tax according to the division's database of values, your bill of sale will still come in handy. It shows proof that you paid for the vehicle and also acts as a receipt.

Check out our related Bill of Sale information page on this site.

How to Sell Your Vehicle

When selling a vehicle in North Carolina, there is certain information you need to put on the back of your North Carolina title, and you must have it notarized. Then you give the title to the new owner when you deliver the vehicle, and he or she can apply for a new registration and title. On the back, write the following in the presence of a notary:

  • Buyer's name and address.
  • Date of sale or date of delivery.
  • Seller's signature and hand-printed name.
  • Odometer reading.
  • Notarization.
  • Damage disclosure.

Buying or Selling a Car Without a Title or Registration

Rarely do people buy untitled vehicles. The seller must provide the buyer with a title; if the title is missing, the seller must apply for a duplicate before selling the vehicle. The seller is not required to furnish the registration, however, and the buyer won't need it in order to transfer the title after the sale.

If there is no title and you can't get in touch with the previous owner to obtain one, you can still title the car in your name. The only way to do this is through an indemnity bond. This option is only available in certain situations. To find out if the vehicle you wish to title qualifies, call the DMV's customer service office at (919) 715-7000 or contact a DMV customer representative online. If the vehicle qualifies for an indemnity bond the DMV can e-mail you the requirements and paperwork for the bond.

If the owner is deceased, you are the heir to the vehicle, and there is no estate administrator, you will need to complete an Affidavit of Authority to Assign Titles (available through NCDOT Vehicle Services). You and any other heirs must be listed in order to have the title transferred.

What to Do With License Plates

When you sell your vehicle, you can transfer your license plate to your new car. If you are not transferring it, turn it in at a Vehicle and License Plate Renewal office. Make sure you do this before you cancel your liability insurance. You must have continuous coverage on your insurance until you turn in the license plate.

For immediate information about selling or donating a vehicle you may call the DMV's customer service line at (919) 715-7000 to ask questions.

For more tips about buying and selling cars, visit DMV.ORG's Guide to Buying and Selling Cars. You can also find a sample Bill of Sale form on our site.

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