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Process of buying a vehicle in the US

Joined
Dec 29, 2017
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47
Location
Plano, TX
Can anybody please give me the short story on the process when purchasing a 2nd hand vehicle?

What are the responsibilities of the seller and buyer?
Who must provide what paperwork?
Must the car go for a test/inspection when it is sold? Who pays for this?

I think you get the picture.

I am in the market to buy a cheaphie to get around for now, nothing more than $5000 - like a small Ford Fiesta, until I get settled.

The deal will be cash and I want to make sure I follow the correct steps/procedures when procuring the car privately.

Your inputs, as always, are highly appreciated people on two wheels :rider:
 

South Tex

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As long as it’s a clear title, as in paid for by current owner. They just sign the title and also a title transfer form you can print out from Texdmv.gov. I believe it is form 130-u
 
Joined
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Plano, TX
Thanks ST,

Must the vehicle be tested or inspected for the sale? Back home this was a requirement each a vehicle changes hands.

How do I confirm if the owner does indeed own the car and or paid it in full?
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
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That's pretty much it. The 130-U is all-important. Print it off, follow the instructions to have the seller fill in the blanks & sign it. Then show up at the tax office with the 130-U, the signed title, and proof of insurance. Oh yeah - the tax office won't let you complete the process unless you have proof that the vehicle is insured. If you've got those three things, they'll do the rest - have you sign another form or two, lighten your pockets for the price of sales tax & annual registration, hand you a brand new license plate, and send you on your merry way. It's actually pretty easy and only takes about 10 minutes.

Two things you need to watch for on the title:
1) When the seller signs the back, he must sign it exactly the way it reads on the front. If the name on the front is Jonathon Smith and he signs the back as Johnnie Smith, the tax office may well send you away with a sheaf of paperwork the seller has to fill out. Trust me - I've been there and it's a major hassle.
2) Once the title is dated on the back, you must complete the process at the tax office within 20 working days of that date. Otherwise, they're gonna hit you with a financial penalty.
 

South Tex

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Thanks ST,



Must the vehicle be tested or inspected for the sale? Back home this was a requirement each a vehicle changes hands.



How do I confirm if the owner does indeed own the car and or paid it in full?


In Texas, you are the inspector. In other words no. If you think it’s a deal you just buy it. If the owner has the actual title in their hand it’s clear. Google Texas vehicle title images just so you know the color. Salvage titles are pink I believe, and you don’t want that
 
Joined
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Clear Lake
Thanks ST,

Must the vehicle be tested or inspected for the sale? Back home this was a requirement each a vehicle changes hands.

How do I confirm if the owner does indeed own the car and or paid it in full?
To be clear, it needs to have an annual inspection to be registered, however that is not required at each time of sale, just once a year like an MOT or WOF.

If they have the title in hand, that usually means it's paid off. If there is a lien/loan against the vehicle, the owner of the debt keeps the title until it is paid off, then returns it to the buyer once paid in full.
I suggest never buying a vehicle with a salvage title, my 2c.
 
Joined
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League City, Texas
The only time you would have to worry about an inspection is if the current registration is expired. If this is the case, there may be a reason they let it expire (won’t pass inspection). You can purchase a vehicle and title it even if it won’t pass inspection; you just won’t be able to drive it on the road until it passes inspection and has a current registration.
 

2WheelNut

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A bit more clarity on inspections. Vehicles are subject to safety and emissions inspections in order to be registered to be driven on Texas roads. These are not mechanical inspections, but safety and emissions. In other words, the transmission could be slipping or the tie rods shot or the air conditioner doesn't work and the vehicle still pass emissions and safety inspection.

As far as registering / title transfer, look at the title, there is a spot for signature on the front and signature for the seller on the back. There is also a spot where any liens on the title are recorded. You need a title with no liens or the liens being signed away as cleared and then the seller to sign front and back.

If you buy a vehicle with current registration, it would have had to have been inspected in the last year in order to have that registration and you can go to the title office and transfer the title. When registration is also due, it must be inspected within 60 days of registration renewal.

So...if registration was about to expire, you'd have to get the vehicle inspected before you can register it but if the registration is valid for another 6 months, you'd just pay for the title transfer and then you'd have to get it inspected before you renew the registration in 6 months.
 
Joined
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Plano, TX
Thanks o' great two wheeled ones :hail:

That clears up many things:

- Seller must have title in hand (without liens/loans noted on it)
- No salvage or re-built titles (not for me in any case) - title must be blue
- Make sure the inspection is still valid
- Get insurance before registering/transferring the title

What is the minimum time the inspection must still be valid for at the time of the purchase, in order for me not to have to redo the inspection before registration?

I reckon I must contact the insurance and get cover before I purchase the vehicle and before registration.
 
Last edited:

South Tex

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The vehicle can be inspected up to 90 days before registration is due but also the day of registration if that’s on your schedule . And yes you need at least liability insurance or your driving it off their property at your own risk
 
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Haltom City
Wanneer het jy hier aan gekom? Ek sien jy se Plano is waar jy bly.
Welkom, sien uit om jou te ontmoet.
Andre
 
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Jan 22, 2011
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At the back of the pack and out of the dust
As Tim noted, there will also be a sales tax of between 6 and 8 percent of the value of the car. Depending on what you paid for the car it could be more if the "Presumptive Value" is higher. Presumptive value is an average value the state uses in case someone claims they bought a car for a fraction of it's worth. People used to falsify the value of a sale to reduce the taxes. A link is below.

http://www.txdmv.gov/standard-presumptive-calculator

Most larger county offices use an electronic clearing house called TexasSure. This records the registration of all cars and if they are insured and inspected. (A police officer can't write an no insurance ticket without checking on TexasSure to verify you don't have insurance.) Anyway, don't be surprised if you go to the Tax office and find they know as much about your car as you do, but don't expect them to have all of the paperwork. Take it with you to be on the safe side.

m
 

TLRam1

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I see you live in Plano.

When buying a vehicle, if the "Check Engine" light is on the car will not pass inspection when inspection time rolls around again until what ails the "Check Engine" is corrected.
 

erd

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I’m in Plano if you need help looking at a car or with the process.
It might be worthwhile to just pay a little extra and get the car at CarMax. They are a very large used car dealer and are pretty reputable.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2017
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Plano, TX
I see you live in Plano.

When buying a vehicle, if the "Check Engine" light is on the car will not pass inspection when inspection time rolls around again until what ails the "Check Engine" is corrected.
I will keep an eye open for that :thumb:

I’m in Plano if you need help looking at a car or with the process.
It might be worthwhile to just pay a little extra and get the car at CarMax. They are a very large used car dealer and are pretty reputable.
I appreciate the offer, will keep it in mind thanks. Yes, I have been searching CarMax's website too - they seem legit.
 

Jeff S

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Yeah, I think I'd trust CarMax. I've never bought a car from 'em, but I've sold them two and they did do thorough checks over the car. I know folks who've bought from them and had zero problems. Yes, more expensive than from buying direct from someone, but that $$ buys confidence and lowers hassle.
 

mlinkibikr

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One more thing about insurance. The state only requires that you carry liability. Although full coverage for a $5k car shouldn't be terribly expensive, you don't have to carry full coverage (collision, medical, comprehensive) if you pay cash. If you take a loan out for it, and the car protects the loan, the lender will likely require you to carry full insurance.

I stopped carrying full coverage for my old vehicle once I realized that any kind of accident would likely result in the insurance company declaring a total loss, which they will do if the repairs exceed the value of the vehicle. It doesn't take much to run up thousands of dollars of repairs in a minor accident. Just something to consider.

Dave.
 
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Thanks minibiker.

I dont really see the car I like on CarMax with reasonable pricing. I do see a few on CarGurus though.
 

2WheelNut

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Not a lot of decent cars at reputable dealerships for $5K or less. Profit margin is too thin at those prices to do the amount or pre-sale investment that those companies will want to do to make sure they are a good car that won't break down and make the customer mad.

If you get a car for under $5K, expect that it's going to need tires, or brakes, or "something" fixed in the next 10K miles or so. It's just pretty normal for people to sell cars in that category because they don't want to spend the money to do the repair or maintenance item and are ready to get something else.

It makes sense really....why would you do all the maintenance and repairs and then immediately sell it?

So...you can get decent deals at $5K or less, but it's likely they'll need some work done before you can really put it on the road and trust it to get you there and back every day.
 
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I am pretty handy and can do a lot of repairs myself, so I am not too worried about that. I am mostly concerned with accident and service history, and the amount of miles. It's rather easy to see if a person looked after the car or not. Right now my budget is max $5000.
 

2WheelNut

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I am pretty handy and can do a lot of repairs myself, so I am not too worried about that. I am mostly concerned with accident and service history, and the amount of miles. It's rather easy to see if a person looked after the car or not. Right now my budget is max $5000.
Agreed. I'm the same way and have found several good cars at that price point. My point is that you're more likely to find them on craigslist or through a private party ad than at a dealership like CarMax where they are trying to make profit and cover overheads.

If you've got the skills to assess a vehicle and repair what is needed, you should be able to find one that will be a good value in the end.
 

cdc

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It is a good ide to to a CarFax. Using the VIN, this service checks the vehicle repair history if the work was done at a regular shop.
 
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