How to Buy a Used Car and the Documents Needed

by Shanan Miller
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Knowing which documents your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or lender requires can save you time, frustration or money once you've decided on a vehicle to purchase.


Before buying a used car, determine how you'll pay for it. If you're transferring money or accessing an equity account, do so before you set out shopping. If you plan to finance a vehicle, obtain lending pre-approval beforehand (the process can take up to a week). Make sure the seller has a title before agreeing to buy; if you need a replacement title, the process can take up to a month.


Contact your local DMV office to find out rules in your state. Many states won't allow you to transfer a title while a lien-holder is listed. You'll need the vehicle title for the car you want to buy (some cars are excluded depending on state and age). Some states require a bill of sale for purchase price information or an odometer statement if there is not a place on the title for it. When you're ready to register the car, you'll need your driver's license and proof of insurance.


Get all of your information in order. Even with the title, signatures need to be in the right places, otherwise the title is void. You may want to sign with the seller at the DMV to ensure this does not happen. A lender can request information from you as conditional loan approval. Some require a previous pay stub (for proof of income), a utility bill (for proof of residency), past tax forms (for the self-employed) or references. Ask your lender about required documents upon pre-approval.

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