Buying A Used Car: Paperwork You Will Need

February 16, 2012

Get answers to frequent questions about the paperwork involved when buying a used car, from title transfer fees to bill of sale contracts.

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New or inexperienced drivers who are looking into that next set of wheels may be a little unsure about the needed paperwork when buying a used car, or documents they need to get their car on the road. Knowing more about basic used auto documentation will help the buyer avoid some pitfalls when they go to visit the state DMV.

Used car paperwork: The title

The most basic document for any used car sale is the car's title. The title should be free of any liens, claims by a lender or other party, and the buyer should be able to see whether the title carries a salvage status. This would show if the vehicle has been previously refurbished due to major damage. The title also needs to be clean and in good condition, as some states will not accept a damaged title. Never buy a car without a title. In this case, the buyer will not be able to register the vehicle or resell it.

Used car paperwork: The bill of sale

A bill of sale is another important document. It identifies the seller and the buyer. It also identifies the vehicle according to VIN number. The DMV will want to see this to verify some basic information, including sale price. The sale price on the bill of sale is used to calculate the auto sales tax that most states require any time a vehicle changes hands.

More paperwork

Other used car paperwork requirements vary by state. Make a visit to your states' DMV either in person or online to see what specific documents are required for registering a vehicle and getting it legally on the road.

Related Questions and Answers

Which States Require Bill of Sale Contracts for Autos?

Every state requires you to have bill of sale contracts. These bills of sale are informal agreements between the seller and the buyer agreeing about a set date of delivery and the payment for the car. But five states require the bill of sale to be notarized by a representative of the government. The states that absolutely require a bill of sale include Louisiana, New Hampshire, Maryland, Nebraska, and West Virginia. All you have to do is find out the state requirements for the bill of sale and carry out the legal requirements accordingly. Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles for a stock bill of sale that you can use.

Is There a Fee for Transferring a Car Title?

You will have to pay a simple free when transferring a car title to a new owner. The actual fee will differ from state to state and you will have to get in touch with the Department of Motor Vehicles of your state to get the right information. For example, when you are transferring the car title in Michigan, you will have to present the car title to the clerk and request a transfer. You and the new owner will have to be there along with the required documents. You will have to pay the clerk a $15 fee, but this may increase or decrease according to the latest rules and regulations.

Where Do I Go to Replace a Lost Title of a Car?

The exact process of replacing the lost title of your car is dependent on the state you are currently residing in. You will have to file a duplicate title at the local DMV of the state you are residing in. You can pick up the local application form or download the form at the website. Ensure that you have the basic information about your car, like the VIN number, the original license plate and other paperwork that you require. Ensure that the entire form is filled up and you will require about $7-$10 for the application. It takes about two weeks to get the duplicate title.

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