State Regulations in New York

As with any major purchase, spending thousands of dollars for a new or used vehicle can be a little overwhelming. The secret to getting a fair deal and a quality vehicle is being informed. A little research and awareness on the front end can reward you with a satisfying transaction down the road.

Buying New From a Dealer in New York

New cars can only be bought from licensed dealers, who have specific arrangements with automobile manufacturers. Dealers have been licensed by the Division of Vehicle Safety Services at the New York Department of Motor Vehicles and are required to perform certain duties in relation to the sale―duties that protect you, the consumer:

  • If the vehicle is used, the dealer must certify in writing that it is in good driving condition.
  • All the safety equipment and emissions controls required for that vehicle's model year must be included.
  • The vehicle must have been inspected within 30 days before it's delivered to you.
  • New-car dealers are obligated to provide service or repairs under the manufacturer's warranty.
  • The bill of sale must indicate whether the vehicle is new, used, reconstructed, rebuilt salvage, or originally not manufactured to U.S. standards.
  • The dealer must provide the buyer with odometer and salvage disclosure statements.
  • The dealer must reveal on the sales contract when a passenger car had been used primarily as a fleet car.
  • If you buy the vehicle with a loan, the dealer must handle the titling and registration for you, and will usually do this anyway as a courtesy.

Tips For Buying From a Dealer

If you're daunted by the idea of haggling with a salesman who has been trained to get the most money out of you for a new car, we've got a few tips to bolster your confidence when you step foot onto the car lot:

  1. Research the car you're interested in on the Internet. Free information, consumer guides, and comparison reports are available online that can help you narrow your search.
  2. Wait until the end-of-summer months (July through October) or the last two weeks of December to buy. New inventory crowding the lots as we head into autumn and end-of-year sales targets can motivate a dealer to sell for a more attractive price.
  3. Visit several dealers and get their best prices; use these to negotiate with your chosen dealer.
  4. Cars that need to be factory-ordered shouldn't cost any more than the cars already on the lot.
  5. If the dealer offers to find the car you're looking for at another dealership, be aware that you might be charged extra fees for a phone call you can make yourself.
  6. Read advertisements very carefully―and bring the advertisement to the dealership when you shop. New York has strict guidelines for how dealers may advertise, but it's still possible to be misled by a cunning advertising ploy.

The DMV has published a brochure called Let the Buyer Be Aware that you should read before embarking on your car-buying mission. And finally, though hopefully you will never need it, here is information about New York's lemon law.

Buying Used From a Dealer

Although you might pay a little more than if you buy from a private seller, you're a lot safer buying a used vehicle from a trained and licensed auto dealer.

Dealers must inspect and repair the used vehicles they sell, so you're less likely to have to make repairs as soon as you drive off the lot, and sometimes the dealer will even offer a warranty on a used vehicle. A dealer is also required to disclose whether the car you're looking at has ever been salvaged, and they will take care of all the paperwork needed for transferring the title to you, getting the vehicle registered, and obtaining license plates.

On the other hand, you might pay a little more for the convenience and peace of mind that come from buying from a dealer. Check out the exact model of car on the Kelley Blue Book or National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) websites. Both offer free price quotes that are designed to reflect the market in your area, and they give both retail and private-party pricing.

Buying Used From a Private Individual

Buying a used vehicle from a private party can carry more risk than buying from a dealer because a private seller doesn't have to follow the same regulations and rarely offers a warranty. If you buy a defective vehicle in a private sale, there is no one to complain to, so you are on your own.

Having said that, if you take a few precautions and ask the right questions, you can pay less than retail for the car you want.

Check Out the Seller

First, beware of unlicensed dealers posing as private-party sellers. They sometimes make their money by buying a high-mileage or wrecked used car, rolling back the odometer or making shoddy repairs, and selling it for a higher price to an unsuspecting consumer. Here are some telltale signs that you're dealing with this type of seller:

  • The seller wants to meet you somewhere other than his or her house.
  • The vehicle is parked alongside the road or in a vacant parking lot.
  • The vehicle's title isn't in the seller's name.
  • The seller will only accept cash.

You can weed out unscrupulous sellers by asking a few key questions on the phone before you commit to seeing the car: Are you the vehicle's owner? How long have you owned it? Does the vehicle have a New York title, and is it in your name?

Check Out the Vehicle

OK, so you've decided that you're dealing with a legitimate seller. Now you need to give the car a thorough once-over. To start, ask the buyer some questions that will give you an insight into how the vehicle has been used and cared for. Some examples:

  • What's the mileage, and what was it when you bought the vehicle? Did you buy it new?
  • Has the car ever been in any accidents?
  • Why are you selling it?
  • Has the vehicle been driven primarily in the city or on the highway?
  • Have you done any major work on the car, and do you have the receipts?
  • What kinds of repairs can I expect to make in the next year?
  • What do you like the best about the car? What do you like the least?
  • Has the car ever had rust problems or been repainted for any reason?
  • Has the vehicle's body ever been repaired?

Interviewing the seller may not give you the complete picture of an automobile's history, so it is strongly recommended that you also have a mechanic look at it for a small charge. The investment could save you hundreds in repairs if the car you're considering has hidden problems.

If you'd rather check the car out yourself or have a knowledgeable friend help you, the DMV offers useful guidelines for mechanical checks.

You may also wish to research the vehicle's history by purchasing a vehicle history report from one of a number of websites that offer such search services. Vehicle history reports can tell you whether your prospective purchase was salvaged, flooded, declared a lemon, or rebuilt; whether the odometer has ever been rolled over, rolled back, or broken; whether the vehicle was involved in a major accident, stolen, auctioned, or damaged by fire; and whether it was ever leased or used as a rental, taxi, police, or fleet car.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau also offers buyers a free VIN lookup service to help you avoid buying a vehicle that suffered damage in a hurricane or flood.

Private-Party Paperwork

It's relatively painless to complete the paperwork when buying or selling a car in a private (nondealer) transaction. If you're the buyer, you'll need to get the following from the seller:

Examine the title carefully for information about unsatisfied liens. You don't need to worry about paying sales tax at this point―you'll pay that when you register and title the car at the DMV. Read the pages in the below table for details about the paperwork necessary to purchase a vehicle from a private seller.


Selling Your Car

When it's time to part ways with your vehicle, you can have a dealer sell it, trade it in for another car (either to a dealer or a private party), or simply sell it to a private party.

If you sell it to a private individual, provide the following documents to the new owner:

Take the license plates off the car and remove the registration sticker from the windshield so you're not held liable for any parking or traffic tickets the new owner gets.

The new owner is responsible for getting a new title, a new registration, and new plates at the DMV. You are responsible for surrendering your plates to the DMV or transferring them to another vehicle before your insurance lapses, otherwise the DMV may suspend your driver license.

How to Buy or Sell Without a Title

You cannot complete a transaction without a title. The seller is responsible for providing this document. If the title is missing, the seller must visit any DMV office and apply for a duplicate title by completing a Vehicle Registration/Title Application (Form MV-82).

If you require more help, call Title Services at (518) 486-4714.

How to Buy or Sell Without Registration

There are various situations, all of which apply to the seller.

Situation one: If the registration is lost, the owner must visit any DMV office and complete a Vehicle Registration/Title Application (Form MV-82).

Situation two: If the registration is lost and cannot be duplicated, the owner must request a Certification of NYS Registration for Transfer of Non-Titled Vehicle (Form MV-353) from the DMV. He or she will need to provide proof of identity and $10 for the form. Before issuing the form, the DMV will verify whether the vehicle is registered to the owner.

Situation three: If the DMV cannot issue a duplicate registration or a Certification of NYS Registration for Transfer of Non-Titled Vehicle form, the owner must provide other proof of ownership. This could include an expired registration certificate or an original Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (MCO). If neither of these documents are available, the owner can submit a Statement of Ownership (Form MV-51B).

Situation four: If the owner never registered the vehicle, he or she must submit to the DMV an Affidavit of Sale or Transfer (Form MV-51). The seller must also supply the buyer with proof of ownership and the bill of sale that the seller obtained from the vehicle's former owner.


Vehicle Registration/Title Application
Application for NY title (original or replacement), registration (original, renewal, duplicate, or corrected), OR plate transfers.
Certification of NYS Registration for Transfer of NonTitled Vehicle
Odometer and Damage Disclosure Statement
Official odometer and damage disclosure required when transferring ownership of a vehicle in New York.
Certification of Sale or Transfer for 1972 or Older Vehicles or Any Other Non-Titled Vehicles
Use this form to certify the transfer of ownership of an older vehicle in New York.
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