There are a lot of steps involved with buying a new or used vehicle.
From researching the right car to buy, to filling out all the paperwork, to transferring ownership into your name – there’s a lot to take care of!
This page will go over the general process for transferring ownership of a vehicle after you purchase it.
Plus, you’ll find links to the official state DMV websites as well as your time frame for getting the vehicle registered.
How to Apply for a Title and Registration When Buying a Vehicle
The process for transferring ownership of a new or used vehicle you just purchased will vary depending on whether you bought the vehicle from a dealership or a private seller.
If you’ve bought it from a dealer, most of the paperwork will be submitted for you. In most cases, you won’t even need to visit the DMV.
However, if you buy a car from a private seller, you’ll be responsible for submitting the necessary documents, transferring the title to your name, and getting it registered.
Here’s what you need to do after buying a used vehicle from a private party:
- Get a car insurance policy.
- Make an appointment to visit your local DMV office or county clerk.
- Transfer ownership within your state’s required time frame after the purchase date.
- Complete any necessary emissions or safety inspections, or have proof that the vehicle has recently passed the required tests.
- Have the signed title from the previous owner.
- Have the bill of sale.
- Make sure the seller has completed the odometer disclosure statement, if necessary.
- Complete an application for a new title and registration.
- Choose which type of license plates you want.
- Complete a VIN inspection (typically required for out-of-state vehicles or vehicles that have fallen out of the system).
- Pay the title and registration fees and sales tax.
Learn more about all the paperwork required when buying a car.
When you submit your documents and fees to the DMV, you should also be prepared to provide:
- Proof of your identity (e.g. your valid driver’s license).
- Proof of your residency in the state.
How Long After Buying a Vehicle Do You Have to Title and Register?
If you buy a vehicle in a private sale, it is your responsibility to transfer ownership into your name in a timely manner.
Each state has slightly different regulations on how long you have to title and register a used vehicle after the purchase date.
The time frame typically ranges from 7 days to 60 days.
If you fail to transfer ownership within the required time frame, you’ll typically be charged a late fee or you may be responsible for back fees on the registration.
If you need to drive the vehicle before you are able to get it titled and registered (to get it inspected or to transport it to storage), you may be required to apply for temporary tags first.
Refer to the table below to see how long you have to title and register a newly purchased vehicle in each state. Follow the links to the state DMV websites for more information on title and registration procedures.
What Fees Will You Need to Pay After Buying a Used Car?
The purchase price isn’t the only thing you’ll need to pay when buying a used car.
The other fees and taxes you should be prepared to pay include:
- Title transfer fees.
- Paper title fees, if applicable.
- Expedited title fees, if necessary.
- License plate fees.
- Registration tag fees.
- Sales tax on the purchase price or the fair market value of the vehicle.
- Property tax, if applicable.
- Emissions and inspection fees, if applicable.
When buying or selling a vehicle, who should pay for the title transfer?
When buying or selling a vehicle in a private sale, it is the buyer’s responsibility to pay for the title transfer and registration fees and any taxes required by the state.
Depending on the state, the seller may be required to get the vehicle inspected before it can be sold.
When you sell a car in a private sale, you’ll have your own responsibilities, including:
- Gathering the necessary paperwork to sell your car.
- Submitting a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability.
- Cancelling your car insurance policy.
What happens if you don’t transfer a title in your name on a vehicle that you buy?
Failing to transfer ownership of a vehicle you’ve recently purchased can result in penalties.
At the very least, you will face additional late fees if you do not title and register your vehicle with your state DMV in the required time frame after buying it.
You may also face back fees for registration.
Purchasing a vehicle without getting it transferred into your name and then selling it is known as “title jumping”.
In most states, this practice is illegal and can result in heavy penalties.
Even if you plan to sell the vehicle shortly after purchasing it, you are still required by law to title it in your name.
This practice is typically in place in order to prevent fraud and so that the state can maximize the tax collected on vehicles bought and sold.
If you’re buying a used vehicle, you can help protect yourself from fraud by using various VIN reports, including: