Don’t Buy A Car Without Knowing What Comes After


It seems we all get caught up in the excitement of buying a car. Most people know you are supposed to negotiate on price and test drive before you sign your name on the line, but less common knowledge is what comes after! How do you make sure your car is okay to be legally on the road? 

Buying a car can be stressful, but the end result is exciting! New wheels and tons of possibilities of where they’ll take you. Well, don’t get caught basking in the excitement of your new ride just yet. Be sure to make a plan to check off all of the items on the post car buy checklist before you celebrate. 

There are several important things you need to do after sealing the deal on your new or used car. These include getting an insurance policy, vehicle registration, filing away the title and bill of sale somewhere safe, acquiring temporary and permanent tags and setting up a maintenance schedule.  

What can be confusing is knowing what a dealership will take care of for you and what you need to do yourself. If you bought the vehicle from a private party seller then your list will be a bit longer than someone who purchased through a dealership. 

Luckily we’ve laid out a step by step guide to making sure your car is legally ready to drive

Post Used Car Buying Checklist:

  1. Get the title transferred 
  2. Register the vehicle
  3. Pay used car sales tax
  4. Insure the vehicle
  5. Place the bill of sale and title in a safe place
  6. Get temporary tags
  7. Make a maintenance schedule
  8. Have the vehicle looked at by a mechanic

Getting The Title Transferred

Transferring the title of a car is something that must be done at a local DMV. If you bought a car from a private party seller then you will be taking care of this yourself and you can expect to pay several hundred dollars depending on what state you live in to have the vehicle titled. 

However, in the case of buying a vehicle from a dealership they may handle the paperwork for you, which is great because I think it goes without saying that the DMV isn’t exactly the happiest place on Earth. Ask your dealership what paperwork they handle and what you need to take care of. In the case that you bought the car from a private seller or your dealership doesn’t handle title transfer, make an appointment with the DMV to get this done. 

To transfer the title you will need:

  • The title in the seller’s name with both of your signatures
  • The date of sale clearly listed on the title
  • Dealership invoice or bill of sale

Registering The Vehicle

Similarly to how a dealership will handle title transfer, most will also cover the cost and process of registering the vehicle in your name. To register the vehicle yourself, you will need to make an appointment with the DMV and be sure to bring these items with you:

  • The title either in your name or with the previous owner’s signature on it
  • An emissions test dependent on what state and county you intend to register the vehicle
  • A completed vehicle safety inspection dependent on what state you live in
  • Your proof of insurance
  • Several forms of identification
  • Proof of residency and address

Laws and requirements do vary from state to state so it is advisable that you check your local DMV website for further details on what you will need. Personally, I like to call and ask my questions before going into the DMV location physically to be sure I know exactly what I need before heading over. 

Once you get the vehicle registered, you want to keep a copy of the registration in the vehicle at all times. If you get pulled over they will ask you for this information. The title of the car however you should never keep in your vehicle in case the car is stolen. Keep the title in a safe or document filer in your house for safekeeping. 

Paying Used Car Sales Tax

If you bought your car at a dealership you likely already paid the tax of buying this car. However, it doesn’t hurt to make sure when you are paying for the car. If you purchased your vehicle through a private party seller then you are responsible for paying the tax on your vehicle yourself which you can do at your local DMV

Insuring The Car

As a driver you are legally required to have car insurance. If you are a new driver you’ll want to take care of getting insurance and your license straightened out before you make the car purchase. However if you have already purchased the car and don’t have insurance, you’ll need to do that before you can register the vehicle and transfer the title. 

Insurance costs will vary depending on the age of the driver, value of the vehicle, policy holder credit score, length of commute, where you live etc. There are tons of insurance providers and each will give you a different rate depending on their risk analysis. It’s usually a good idea to call around and get several quotes before signing up for a policy. 

Insurance can be expensive, however there are discounts for bundling other forms of insurance, being a safe driver, having good grades, or having more than one vehicle on a policy. 

Bill Of Sale

The bill of sale is essentially your receipt and you will need it to register the vehicle. It is also used to determine the amount of sales tax you will pay on the car based on the purchase price. It’s just a good practice to store the title and the bill of sale in a fire safe or somewhere that you store important documents. 

Temporary Tags 

A dealership will usually get you temp tags for the car which are valid for 30 days. If you buy the car yourself you’ll have to acquire tags at the DMV. You’ll want to take care of this when you take the car to have the registration and title put into your name.

Set Up A Maintenance Schedule

If you have maintenance records, check them out and see when the last time each part on the car was serviced. Then verify the recommended maintenance schedule using your owners manual. The manual should give you a time frame and/or mileage count at which time each part should be serviced. 

If you don’t have maintenance records take the car to a mechanic to have it looked over. 

Take The Car To The Mechanic

If you have a mechanic that you trust, one of the first things you should do is to take the car in to have an inspection. The mechanic will be able to ensure the car is safe to drive and be able to set you up with a basic maintenance schedule. 

Typical Paperwork That A Dealership Will Handle For You

Part of what the dealership fees covers (for most reputable dealerships) are pushing the paperwork that goes along with transferring ownership and making sure the car is legally ready to hit the road. Typical documentation that a dealership will have for you includes: 

  1. Title
  2. Registration
  3. Temporary license plates

We hope this article has answered all of your questions regarding getting your car on the road after a recent purchase and that you feel more prepared to handle such an occurrence now and in the future. Consider protecting your new vehicle with an extended warranty plan from Protect My Car. In addition to warranties, Protect My Car also offers insurance and maintenance plans and can negotiate the best prices on repairs with mechanics. 

Protect My Car provides consumers with extended auto warranty plans that have real coverage for vehicles that are no longer covered by their manufacturer’s warranty. Whether your vehicle was purchased new or used, if your manufacturer’s warranty is about to expire, or has already expired, an extended auto warranty plan can save you thousands of dollars in repair bills. Since the majority of vehicle repairs happen 3-5 years after the original purchase date, which many times is outside of the manufacturer’s warranty coverage period, leaving you responsible for paying the full repair bill. However, when you purchase a policy from Protect My Car, you could pay as little as $100.00 for your major repairs. That’s a lot of savings!


About Protect My Car

Protect My Car is an extended auto warranty company. Our goal here at Protect My Car is to eliminate your worry of being financially responsible for an expensive mechanical breakdown. With our extended auto warranty, you don’t have to worry about being fully burdened with the cost of a covered repair.

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