Steps for purchasing a used car?
August 4, 2014 9:49 AM   Subscribe

If all goes well, I'll have the pre-purchase inspection on this used car tomorrow, and see if I can close a deal to buy it. Then what? I need help with the order of all the paperwork and steps. Complication: I'm in MA, the owner is in CA, and the car is registered and located with the seller's relative in NH.

Here are things I know need to happen. But in what order and how?
-I need to pay. I have the cash ready in a bank account. Best practices for paying?
-I need the title signed over to me. Should the relative sign on behalf of the owner? Or is this a matter of mailing things back and forth? Or faxing them back and forth, if copies will do?
-We need to complete a Bill of Sale. Same questions about signatures.
-I need to arrange for insurance.
-The old insurance needs to be terminated.
-I need to drive the car away.
-The old plates need to come off.
-I need to register the car and get the new plates on.

Am I missing any steps? Which steps need to happen before which others? If I want to leave tomorrow with a deal that we'll see through, what has to happen right then? If using an escrow service is advisable, please recommend one if you can.

I found some help via google, but nothing comprehensive, and I emailed the RMV, but I didn't receive a response.
posted by daisyace to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It looks like this will take some doing by mail and at least two trips to the relative's place in NH. You'll need the bill of sale and title to get plates to drive with. The owner probably will want his money in hand before he gives you these things.

* Only the owner can sign off on the title. It will need to be mailed back and forth. I suggest you do so via Registered Mail, as, once signed, any idiot can grab the title and own the car.
* A title must be original, so no faxes or copies.
* Another option is have the owner sign the title off to the relative, but then the relative will need to re-title the car, and then they'd have to sign the (new) title to you. That is a costly pain in the rear.
* Bill of sale must be signed by the owner. It can be very simple, and you can google for typical wording. In the bill of sale, you'll need the owner's name, the amount of money you paid for the car, and the VIN.

"Bill of sale

To Whom It May Concern:

I, Stewart Schmoo LaPew, am the legal owner of a 2009 Subaru Impreza, VIN 4S3YADAYADA123. The loan with Second National Bank has been fully paid off as of January 15, 2014, and I am therefore legally permitted to sell this vehicle. In exchange for the sum of X thousand dollars, I hereby transfer ownership of the above described vehicle to Daisy Ace this 5th day of August, 2014.

Stewart Schmoo LaPew"

* Payment can be in any form the owner will accept. Typically, cash, money order, or certified check all work.

* You will need to buy insurance beforehand, and have your insurance company furnish you with a completed RMV-1 form. This will require you to have the VIN.

* Take the signed title, bill of sale, and RMV-1 to an RMV branch of your choosing. Pro Tip: Avoid Boston, use Framingham or Leominster. They will give you plates.

* Go up to NH with your plates, attach them to your new-to-you car, and drive off.

You cannot get temporary plates in NH as they are not issued to MA residents (MA is not supposed to recognize temporary plates from any state in theory, though in practice they do, particularly near the NH border.) Even if you could, you'd still need the title and bill of sale, so you may as well just get real plates in MA.
posted by tckma at 10:21 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the owner is not present, how can they legally sign the title over to you ?

Normally, you give cash to owner, they sign title over to you. You get insurance, register the car, get plates, and off you go.

Your MA DMV tells you most of what you need to do. Look at the bottom part, "To Register and Title Vehicles Purchased from a Non-Dealer".

The seller may need to clear their end up with NH (tell the state they sold it, possibly return plates etc), but that isn't your problem. eg NH DMV FAQ

But wait, how can you drive it home from NH if the plates are removed ? When I sold a car to out-of-state, the buyer took the car to the DMV and got temporary plates (after proof of insurance). You may need to do that too. (cf questions on about someone who sold a car but left plates on it, and new owner racked up lots of parking tickets.)
posted by k5.user at 10:27 AM on August 4, 2014

Complication: I'm in MA, the owner is in CA, and the car is registered and located with the seller's relative in NH.

Where's the title? The owner should have sent a signed title to the relative in NH if they're trying to sell it there. Anything else is somewhere between annoying and bad.

You don't give anyone money without a signed title.

A copy is meaningless and doesn't work. The owner, whose name is on it needs to sign it as well. This will have to be a mail thing, i guess.

In this situation i'd pay a deposit so they'd hold on until it actually went back and forth. You're not going to get new plates/registration without a signed title anyways.

In my state at least there's trip permits, which are separate from temporary plates. You pay $30 or whatever and you get a 3 day permit to drive around while you deal with all the other stuff. It looks like MA might not do that, but it was completely separate from registration last time i did it in WA. Maybe get one in NH, or something similar and use that to drive home?
posted by emptythought at 7:08 PM on August 4, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all! I bought it yesterday, and got the signed title and bill of sale from the relative in exchange for my payment. This morning, I insured and registered it. Tonight or tomorrow night, I'll go put the new plates on and drive it home. Then I've got a week to get it MA inspected and stickered. I appreciate the help!
posted by daisyace at 7:02 AM on August 6, 2014

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