No matter how much you love your current vehicle, at some point you’ll have to buy a new car or truck. This could because your previous vehicle broke down, or perhaps it no longer accommodates your lifestyle. For instance, if you own a two-door sports car and you just became a parent, you’ll need something a little more family friendly.
If you purchase a vehicle from a dealership, there’s not a whole to worry about. Dealerships offer warranties and can help you with registering your vehicle. Of course, this isn’t a free service, but it’s highly convenient. In many instances, you can drive off the lot with new plates already on the car.
However, suppose you find your ideal vehicle from a private seller. In this case, things can get more complicated.
Unreported Title Transfer Fees
When purchasing a vehicle from a 3rd party, a few precautionary measures are necessary. First, always take the vehicle for a test drive. Secondly, be sure to review any available service records.
Additionally, be wary if the name of the person selling the vehicle doesn’t match what’s on the registration or title. In a worst case, that individual decided not to pay any title transfer or other outstanding fees to put the vehicle in her or her name. What this means is that when you purchase the car or truck, you may have difficulty registering the vehicle, as you’re now responsible for these fees.
Here’s how this may have happened.
You go online and see that an individual named Robert has an SUV for sale. When Robert first purchased this SUV, he never transferred the vehicle to his name. After you paid Robert, you visit your local DMV branch to register the vehicle. You’re shocked to learn that you’re liable for paying two title transfer fees; one for transferring the vehicle to your name and the other for transferring the vehicle from the original owner(s) name to that of the seller.
To be fair, there could be a legitimate reason for this oversight.
Let’s say that Robert purchased the SUV and never transferred the title to his name in the required timeframe, which is different in each state. Most states require owners to report the change of ownership to the DMV within 10 days, but the vehicle should be registered within 30 days. Robert drives the vehicle for a month or two and decides he’s not happy with it, so he sells it. Because he didn’t register the vehicle, you have to pay for two title transfer fees.
How to Find Out if There Are Back Fees Owed to the DMV
Again, always make sure that the registration and title match the name of individual you’re purchasing the vehicle from. If everything matches, simply ask if there are any back fees owed to the DMV. However, even if the person seems trustworthy, you should still protect yourself.
Do a little investigating on your own by using a title transfer system to look up the fees. This can be done through a site such as DMV.com or simply by contacting your state’s DMV. States such as California have an online vehicle registration fee calculator where you type in the Vehicle License number and Vehicle Identification Number to determine the VLF you’ll need to pay upon registration.
Registering Your Vehicle
The next step is registering your vehicle.
While the requirements vary by state, you’ll generally need to submit the following at your local DMV:
Application form for vehicle title and/or registration, and bill of sale (There may also be additional documentation required; New York State, for example, requires drivers to provide proof of sales tax payment)
- Proof of identity (driver’s license)
- Proof of vehicle insurance (varies by state)
- Payment for the applicable fees
Some states may also require that the vehicle pass an emissions test.
Before planning your trip to the DMV, visit your state’s motor vehicle website to find out the exact requirements for registering your vehicle.
The good news is that once you’ve successfully registered your vehicle the first time, it’s incredibly easy to renew your car’s registration. Just complete and return the registration renewal form in the mail, or fill it out online if applicable in your state. Depending on where you reside, you may be asked to provide your insurance policy number, driver’s license number, and Social Security Number, as well as the last four digits of the vehicle identification number (VIN). You’ll also have to pay the applicable fees.