State Regulations in Texas
A car is one of the most expensive purchases we'll ever make, yet we're often poorly prepared. If you're planning to buy a new or used car―either from a dealer or a private seller―decide in advance what kind of car you need and what you are really willing to spend.
By having a figure in mind, you'll be less likely to be talked into buying something that's out of your price range. If the car is used, it's also a good idea to check the resale value of similar vehicles. You can look this up either from Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association. These resources are also helpful if you're trying to set a price for a car you're selling.
Once you have decided on a car to buy, you might also want to have its title and condition researched. A number of online companies will generate a vehicle history report by running a countrywide search on the vehicle identification number (VIN). The report can include any accidents that were reported, title status, recall information, and damage due to acts of nature.
Because it includes the complete title history, a vehicle history report is a great way to make sure the car you're buying was never declared salvage. Since many flood-damaged cars are finding their way back onto the used car market, it's more important than ever to be a well-informed purchaser.
When you buy a car from a dealership, the dealer will handle the paperwork for you, including titling and registration. For transactions between private parties, however, you'll do the paperwork yourself. Fortunately, this can be even easier than doing it at a dealership.
To start with, the title transfer is usually a very simple transaction. This transfers the ownership of the car from one person to another. The seller should also make out a bill of sale that includes all the pertinent information about the vehicle and its sale price.
To transfer the title to the buyer, the seller fills out the information requested on the certificate of title itself. This self-explanatory action signs over the vehicle's ownership to the buyer.
In addition to filling out the title, the seller should complete the gray sections of the Application for Texas Title (Form 130-U) that the buyer will take to their local County Tax Assessor-Collectors office to transfer the title to their own name formally. The buyer has up to a month to do this.
If the seller has lost the title, the seller will need to complete an Application for Certified Copy of Title (Form VTR-34) and submit it to the County Tax Assessor-Collectors Office to get a duplicate title before completing the sale.
If you wish to get a title for a vehicle, but the owner of the vehicle is unknown, you must obtain a bonded title―meaning that you must get a bond to reimburse the rightful owner should he or she come forward to claim the vehicle later. You will also need to fill out a Application for Texas Title (Form 130-U). After three years of holding a bonded title, you can apply for a regular title.
If you wish to sell a vehicle for which you hold a bonded title, you should check with the County Tax Assessor-Collectors office about transferring the bonded title to another party. To sell an unregistered vehicle, you will also need to check with local authorities to find out whether you must register the vehicle before transferring ownership.
If you have sold a vehicle, you might decide to fill out the Texas Motor Vehicle Transfer Notification (Form VTR-346) and submit it to your local County Tax Assessor-Collectors office. While the buyer should apply for title immediately after purchasing your vehicle, they might not do this in a timely fashion.
If the buyer doesn't apply for title within 30 days, it can leave you open to being liable for any parking tickets or other citations they receive. Submitting a Texas Motor Vehicle Transfer Notification (Form VTR-346) might save you the hassle of proving that you weren't the vehicle's owner when it was parked in a red zone.
Car Buying Tips
The Texas Office of the Attorney General has provided a guide to buying a car, which is filled with useful information and tips. If you are purchasing a secondhand car, you might also be interested in the attorney general's auto repair guide, which can help protect you when dealing with car repair shops.
Motor Vehicle Transfer Notification - VTR-346
Submit this form to notify the TX Department of Motor Vehicles of a vehicle transfer. Releases you from liability for the vehicle. Available for download from the DMV's form library.
Application for a Certified Copy of Title - VTR-34
Use this form to request a certified copy of your vehicle title from the TX Department of Motor Vehicles. Available for download from the DMV's forms library.