Paperwork When Buying a Car in Pennsylvania

Paperwork Required to Buy a Car in Pennsylvania

Buying a car in Pennsylvania means taking care of some paperwork.

Most car dealers will do the required paperwork for you, but if you buy a car from a private seller, you'll need to do it yourself.

To have a car titled and registered through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), you'll need the car's title signed over to you by the seller. You might also need a temporary registration as well as inspection certificates.

Read below for more information about the paperwork you need when you buy a car in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Car Buying Paperwork

The certificate of title is the most important document you will need from the seller. Make sure that this title has been filled out completely and includes:

  • Your name and address.
  • A current odometer reading.

You and the seller will need to sign the title certificate in the presence of a PennDOT agent.

If the title is missing, the owner of the vehicle will have to apply for a duplicate title and transfer it to you.

Vehicle Inspections

Used cars are required to be inspected within 10 days of the sale UNLESS they already have a valid inspection sticker.

You may also need an emissions inspection depending on where in Pennsylvania you live.

Title and Register the Car in PA

As the new owner of a car, you must transfer the title and register the car. You can either:

  • Apply for a new registration and license plate.
  • Transfer the registration and license plate from your previous car.

To complete the title and registration paperwork, you'll go to your local PennDOT office in person. You will need:

  • The title certificate, which must be signed by you AND the seller in front of a PennDOT agent.
  • Proof of car insurance.
  • A valid Pennsylvania ID.
  • Application forms, which are available at the PennDOT office:
    • The Application for Pennsylvania Certificate of Title (Form MV-1).
    • The Vehicle Sales and Use Tax Return/Application for Registration (Form MV-4ST).

If you do not have license plates to transfer, you can also get a temporary registration valid for 90 days.

For more information, see our pages Title Transfers in Pennsylvania and Register a Car in Pennsylvania.

Fees and Taxes

You must pay title and registration fees as well as sales tax and applicable county fees:

  • $45 registration fee.
  • $67 title transfer or new title fee.
    • $100 if the title includes a lien.
  • 6% of the purchase price for sales tax. (Note 7% if you live in Allegheny County and 8% if you live in the City of Philadelphia

Vehicle History Reports

A vehicle history report will tell you important information about the history of a car, such as:

  • Accidents involving the car.
  • Damage to the vehicle from accidents or other events, like flooding.
  • The odometer reading.

It can be easy to repair the exterior parts that have been damaged, but the internal parts might still have issues that can go unnoticed until you find yourself paying for extensive repairs.

The vehicle history report can verify information a seller tells you and help you avoid problem vehicles.

Vehicle Fraud in Pennsylvania

Vehicle fraud can take several forms, including odometer tampering, document forgery, and misrepresentation.

If you suspect you have been the victim of fraud by a car dealer, you can complete and submit a Fraudulent Misuse of Motor Vehicle Credentials (Form RMO-1VR ).

You can also contact PennDOT's Customer Care Center at (800) 932-4600 if you have questions or concerns about fraud.


Application for Certificate of Title
Vehicle Sales and Use Tax Return/Application for Registration
Fraudulent Misuse of Motor Vehicle Credentials
Use this form if you suspect fraud has been committed regarding your vehicle's credentials (e.g. odometer fraud, misuse of license plates, curbstoning).
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