What to Do After Buying a Used Car?
After buying a used car you need to register it as soon as possible.
Owning and operating a motor vehicle provides lots of freedom but entails many responsibilities as well. If you move from one state to another, even for temporary work, you may be required to change your registration. States keep records of vehicle registrations and titles in order to collect use taxes, called excise tax, as well as fees for registration, inspection, and tolls.
Paperwork is a significant aspect of car buying, starting with the VIN check, which allows anyone to research a vehicle’s history to determine what sort of issues it may have, including flood damage and recalls. All state vehicle registration paperwork is based on a vehicle’s VIN number, the unique combination of digits assigned to each vehicle. A VIN check will also reveal where a vehicle has been registered in the past.
How to Register a Car?
After your VIN check, do some research to determine the state’s requirements for vehicle registration, insurance, and other particulars. Some states allow a grace period, use of old plates, or temporary license plates while others do not. If you’ve purchased a vehicle from a dealership they will usually arrange for taxes, title, and registration before releasing the vehicle, making your only responsibility the purchase of insurance.
What Do I Need to Register My Car?
After buying a used car take the following paperwork to the Department of Motor Vehicle office in the state where the vehicle will be housed.
- A copy of the vehicle’s title (signed by the previous owner if it’s a used vehicle),
- A bill of sale may be required in some states, particularly if the vehicle is older;
- The state registration application,
- Proof of insurance may be required, which can be obtained through your insurance agency or company, and
- Your identification.
Can I Drive a Car After Purchase Before Registration?
If you purchase a vehicle out of state and seek to drive it to the state where it will be registered you may be able to get temporary “transit plates” in the state where it was purchased. Some states allow the plates to stay with the vehicle until it is registered in its new home state while other states require the person who registered the vehicle to return plates after it is sold.
If the bank holds the title to your vehicle because you have taken a loan to purchase it, you need to take the loan paperwork to the Department of Motor Vehicles for registration purposes. The loan documents will have the identifying information on them that is needed to secure a registration.
Many states require proof of insurance before a vehicle can be registered. Check with your state to understand the minimum requirements before purchasing insurance. Only Virginia and New Hampshire do not require some form of liability insurance.
What are Vehicle Registration Fees?
Registration and title fees are set by individual states, as are other requirements. Many states base vehicle registration costs on the class or weight of the vehicle, with trucks and cars evaluated differently. This is the case in New Hampshire, New York, New Mexico, the Dakotas, Florida, and Virginia. Most states have a flat registration fee, including Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, the Carolinas, Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Maine. Fees in Oklahoma, Montana, and Idaho are based on the age of the vehicle, and in Michigan, Louisiana, Colorado, and California, fees are tied to the value of the car.
What Happens if You Don't Register Your Car Within 30 Days?
Each state has its own requirements for vehicle registration, including how long you may reside in a state without changing the registration to your new address. Most states make exceptions for active duty military who are stationed in the state but officially reside elsewhere.
Wisconsin requires some sort of license plate (whether temporary or permanent) to be displayed within two days of purchase of a vehicle. Temporary plates may be used for 90 days. This state also allows owners to transfer old plates from one vehicle to another of the same type by submitting a form (downloadable) to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
What is the Grace Period for Car Registration in California?
The state with over 15 million registered vehicles, California, requires that owners register all cars in state if they are primarily used in California, even if the owner is a non-resident. All vehicles must be registered in the state within 20 days of the owner taking a job there. Failure to change a vehicle’s registration within the allotted period of time may result in a misdemeanor fine.
Texas, which boasts 8.2 million registered vehicles, has a quirky law that says vehicles not registered in the state may only be used within the borders of Texas for occasional trips of not more than five days in length, five times a month. Taxes must be paid on motor vehicle sales within 30 days of the sale or a penalty is assessed.
Pennsylvania does not require non-resident visitors to register their vehicles in the state but prohibits them from using the vehicle to make money, such as in a car-hire business.
Oklahoma requires that anyone who gets a job in the state register his vehicle there within 30 days of establishing residency. Those traveling with motor homes must change their registration to Oklahoma after 60 days in the state. Full-time college students from other states do not have to abide by vehicle registration requirements.
Wyoming allows nonresidents visiting the state to use the license plates of their home state for a period of 120 days, and allows out of state registration for college students, military members, and vehicles transporting seasonal agricultural workers.
In Utah, residents must register their vehicles within 60 days of establishing residency, and residency is available to those who spend at least six months in the state.
Tennessee limits non-resident motor vehicle owners to use their vehicles in the state for up to 30 days without having to register it in the state, and there is a 60 day limit for motor homes.