Buying and Selling FAQs in Virginia

How long are my temporary plates good?

Temporary plates are good for 30 days. More than enough time to apply for and receive in the mail special personalized plates.

What is Virginia's Sales and Use tax?

Ah, good question. This one-time tax is based on 4.15% of a vehicle's gross sales price, and is charged whenever a vehicle changes ownership. During the titling process, the state takes either the 4.15% rate or $75, depending on which one is higher.

If I just moved to the state, do I have to pay Virginia's Sales and Use tax if my car was already titled in another state?

As long as you possess a valid title or registration certificate from another state, you are exempt from this tax. If, however, your vehicle was purchased within the last 12 months, you must show proof to the Department of Motor Vehicles that you already did pay the sales and use tax in your former state.

If I'm shipping a car from Europe into Virginia, can I use the car to transport other personal possessions?

Though not illegal, Customs strongly discourages transforming your vehicle into a four-wheeled shipping crate. The contents are extremely vulnerable to theft. Plus, you face the king-sized hassle of having to declare all your car's contents with Customs. If you attempt to avoid declaring everything by glibly thinking "what's a few boxes," you risk having your vehicle and all its contents seized.

What certifications are required if I want to import a vehicle to Virginia from another country?

To meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards, the vehicle's certification label should include the manufacturing date, name of manufacturer, and the following line: "This vehicle conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) in effect on the date of manufacture shown above." This label must be attached to the driver-side hinge-pillar or the door-latch post or the door-edge adjacent to the door-latch post.

If I'm importing a car into Virginia, is it true I must have the undercarriage cleaned before shipping?

Not just cleaned, but thoroughly cleaned. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that all undercarriages be thoroughly cleaned so as to safeguard against transporting any dangerous pests into the state and the country.

What documentation will I need if I'm importing a vehicle into Virginia?

You will need the following:

  • The shipper's or carrier's original bill of lading.
  • The bill of sale.
  • Foreign registration documents.

Or, if all of the above seems like too much work, you can hire an Independent Commercial Importer (ICI) to import your vehicle. Be willing to dent your savings account, however. ICIs are extremely expensive.

My question wasn't asked here. Where can I find more information about buying or selling a car in Virginia?

Our main State Regulations page is an excellent place to start. You might also find our registration and titling articles helpful.

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