Do I Need to Register a Used Car?

One of the first things that will come to your mind once you purchase a second-hand vehicle will be, “do I need to register a used car.” And it is perfectly normal to ask yourself this question because you can not drive a car without proper registration. But how to register a pre-owned car, and is the process similar or different from registering a new one? This and other questions will be answered in our article.

Do I need to register a used car? The answer is yes. All vehicles purchased from a dealer or private seller must be properly registered in your name. You will have anywhere between 7 business days to 30 days to finish registration, and it depends on the state you are registering in.  

Couple driving a Chevrolet

Aside from registration, there is other paperwork you need to finish so you can legally own and drive a car you have purchased. The amount of paperwork required depends on whether you bought a car from a dealer or a private seller. Keep reading and find out all you need to know about what to do after you buy a used car.

Quick Overview of Things You Need to Do When Buying a Used Vehicle

When buying a used car, there are some steps you need to take to make sure you have a good deal. First of all, you need to know the vehicle’s exact condition. Check the exterior of the car to see if it was in an accident or suffered any damages. Take a car for a test drive, and by all means, visit the mechanic shop to check the engine and other parts.

Before You Buy a Car, Check It on Carfax

Also, before you sign any contract and transfer money to a seller, especially if it is a private seller, ask for a Vehicle Identification Number so you can run the full history of that car on Carfax. Here you can find out if the car was stolen or have been in an accident.

Gather All the Auto Documents – Step by Step Guide

Aside from your driver’s license, plates, and car title, you will have to gather different kinds of forms. After you purchase a car, you will need to register it with your local DMV, Secretary of State (SOS,) Motor Vehicle Division (MVD,) and maybe some other entity that is in charge of your car registration. But before you start with this process, you will probably have to do the following things:

Step 1Have a title in your name.
Step 2Pass a smog check.
Step 3Pass a vehicle safety inspection.
Step 4Be covered by car insurance.

Visit Your State DMV 

Depending on the state, DMV will require different things when you apply for new car registration. If you bought a car from a private seller, you would probably have to do most of these things alone and in the set time period (from 7 to 30 days, depending on the state). Here are some of the documents you will have to have:

  • Certificate of Title,
  • Bill of Sale,
  • Insurance identification card,
  • Application for Registration,
  • Identification document,
  • Loan documents, if there are any.

Figure Out Your Used Car Sales Tax

Aside from the document listed above, your DMV may ask for other documents and forms as well, so make sure you follow the guidance and all the information on your DMV website. Still, most states will probably ask for car sales tax documents. If you bought a used car from a dealer, they would probably include this sales tax in a final bill of sale. However, if you get a car from a private seller, you will have to do this step alone. Go on Tax & Tag Calculators and see how much tax you need to pay. 

car parked on grass

Do I Need to Register a Used Car? Yes, if You Want to Have New License Plates

If you purchase a used car and you wish to get new license plates, you will have to finish registration in the set time period. First, the seller needs to transfer a title to you. To do this, you will have to visit the DMV if you bought a car from a private seller. If not, the dealer will do this step for you.

The next thing you need to do is get new insurance for your car. Check what kind of insurance your state requires. After you gather all the documents, you will have to take the car for an inspection. They will check everything – transmission, engine, and all other major systems. And once you are done, you can go to the DMV to submit your application. 

Man signing a contract 

A Driver Needs a Vehicle Registration and a License to Drive a Car

If you bought a car from a dealer, you would probably get something called “a temporary 30-day tag.” This tag allows you to drive your car without driver registration. After this period is over, you will have another 30 days or less, depending on the state, to register as the real owner of a car. If you bought a car from a private person, you might also ask for a temporary tag, but the process is similar to getting a new registration, so there is no point in going through all that paperwork if it is not necessary. Either way, purchasing a used car is the same as buying a new one – you will have to do the administrative work regarding registration.