Paperwork When Buying a Car in Virginia

Documents Required to Buy a Car in Virginia

When you buy a car in Virginia, the seller must give you paperwork for your records and for your vehicle registration, including a bill of sale and the vehicle title.

Once you have these documents, you'll need to get the car inspected, then submit the required paperwork to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) so that the car is titled and registered in your name.

Keep reading for more details about the paperwork required when you buy a car in Virginia.

Paperwork for Virginia Car Buyers

When you buy a car in Virginia, you'll need to get paperwork from the seller as well as complete some paperwork at the VA DMV.

The vehicle title is the most important document you'll need from the seller.

It should be correctly filled out to include:

If the title certificate is missing for whatever reason, the seller must obtain a replacement title.

Next Steps for Buyers

With the vehicle title in hand, you'll next need to:

  • Make sure the vehicle has a current and valid safety inspection sticker.
  • Get an emissions inspection if you live in:
    • Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, or Stafford Counties.
    • Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, or Manassas Park.
  • Get car insurance.
  • Title the vehicle.
  • Register the vehicle.

If you buy your car from a dealer, they will usually handle all of this paperwork for you.

Title Transfer and Registration in VA

To officially transfer ownership of a vehicle and legally drive it in Virginia, you must transfer the title and register the vehicle.

Before you register your car:

  • You must have car insurance for the vehicle.
  • It must have a valid safety inspection sticker.
    • The car may also need to pass an emissions inspection depending on where you live.

To title and register your car, you must go in person to your local VA DMV office with:

  • The vehicle title.
  • A bill of sale, if applicable.
  • The Application for Certificate of Title and Registration (Form VSA 17A).
  • A valid inspection sticker.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Proof of your address, such as you VA driver's license or ID.
  • Payment for fees and taxes:
    • Title transfer fee: $15.
    • Sales and use tax: 4.15% of the sale price or $75, whichever is more.
    • Registration fee: Varies by vehicle weight and type. See the VA DMV's fee list.

NOTE: Emissions inspection details are sent electronically to the Virginia DMV, so you do not need to take a certificate or proof with you.

Once your paperwork is submitted and verified, the DMV will issue your license plates and expiration decals.

For more information titling and registering your car, see our pages Title Transfers in Virginia and Register a Car in Virginia.

Vehicle History Reports

Vehicle history reports have increasingly been necessary to obtain before purchasing a used car. The report is based on car's vehicle identification number (VIN) and provides pertinent information about the car such as:

  • An accurate odometer reading.
  • Past damages to the car.
  • The car's accident history.

A vehicle history report ensures that the information the seller passes on to you is indeed accurate and protects you against odometer fraud or unreported damage.

Vehicle Fraud in Virginia

Car buyers should be aware of the forms of fraud that sellers might commit. Vehicle fraud can include:

  • Odometer tampering.
  • Title forgery.
  • Curbstoning.

If you suspect vehicle fraud or have information about fraudulent practices, you can report it to the DMV at (877) 937-6372.


Vehicle Price Certification
Certify the purchase price of a recent model year vehicle when applying for a Virginia title with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Odometer Disclosure Statement
Use this form to disclose the mileage on a vehicle you're selling in Virginia.
Application for Certificate of Title and Registration
Form used to apply for a title and/or register a passenger vehicle, truck, motorcycle, trailer, or motor home.
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