State Regulations in Pennsylvania

Selling or buying a car in Pennsylvania requires more than just a check and a handshake. It's a process of forms and signatures that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) requires for subsequent titling and registration purposes.

One overlooked signature could cause you a bureaucratic migraine that takes weeks to cure. Making the effort to assure all papers and signatures are in order is time well spent.

If You're Selling a Car in PA

  • Print and sign your name in the presence of a notary on the back of the title (in Section A); the buyer must do the same.
  • Record the vehicle's odometer reading.
  • Be sure you remove your license plates from the vehicle.

If You're Buying a Car in PA

  • Before you clinch the deal, arrange to have car insurance.
  • Make sure the seller completes Section A on the back of title.
  • Print and sign your name on the title in the presence of a notary.
  • Record the vehicle's odometer reading.
  • Visit a PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services office to transfer the title to your name and register the vehicle. You may apply for new license plates or make arrangements to transfer plates from another vehicle.
  • If the vehicle's emission and inspection decals are not valid, you will have 10 days to pass the inspections.

Buying and Selling Without Paperwork

In Pennsylvania, as in many states, you are required to furnish a title when registering a vehicle―so make sure you get the title from the seller when you buy a car. The registration papers are not quite as necessary, although it makes the process much easier.

If you're the buyer, please use caution when someone tries selling you a vehicle without the title. This is usually a red flag that could signal the car is stolen or salvaged. It would be wise to look for another vehicle.

If you want to sell a car for which you've lost the title, refer to our Buying and Selling FAQs section for information about how to apply for a duplicate. Once you have the duplicate title in hand, you can proceed with the sale.

Buyer Beware

The excitement of buying a car can go hand-in-hand with the fear of getting fleeced. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has instituted a Lemon Law to help protect you from faulty vehicles.

But this does not mean you are completely immune from getting swindled. Before even approaching a seller, you should research the car or model you are considering. Ignorance is not bliss in a car-buying situation. The more you know, the better your chances of not getting caught in a mechanical debacle.

Car Buying Tips

  • Bear in mind that an expensive vehicle does not automatically translate into a good vehicle. Some pricey makes are just as prone to maintenance breakdowns as lower-priced models.
  • The best deals for new cars occur July through October, when dealerships are trying to create space for new models, and during late December when salesmen are desperately trying to reach year-end quotas.
  • If you are purchasing a used car, have an independent mechanic inspect it. Mechanical flaws in today's electronics-filled engines are difficult to detect with untrained eyes, and damage to the chassis from an accident can be invisible.
  • Never sign a blank financial form.
  • Get all promises in writing.
  • Don't give your driver's license under the guise of "for insurance purposes" to a dealership while taking a test drive. While you're wheeling around the block, the dealership could be using your license to make an unauthorized credit report.
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