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Michigan Buying a Vehicle

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A title is proof of legal ownership of property. In Michigan, any vehicle, trailer weighing at least 2,500 pounds when empty, off-road vehicles, pickup campers and watercraft that are at least 20 feet in length or has a permanently affixed engine must be titled. The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) processes all title and registration requests made by Michigan residents.

Obtaining a Title and Registration for a Vehicle Bought from a Car Dealership

When you buy a vehicle from a car dealership in Michigan, that dealership likely has everything in place to enable you to legally drive it off of the lot that same day. Most have remote access to the Michigan SOS and can provide a quick title, temporary registration and even a license plate. You can title a vehicle immediately through most car dealerships. Once the new vehicle is insured, you also can register it at the dealership. Many people just transfer insurance coverage from a trade-in to a new vehicle or add the new vehicle to their current insurance and immediately qualify to obtain a registration. Once done, you can drive your new vehicle home.

Obtaining a Title and Registration for a Vehicle Bought from a Private Party

When you buy a vehicle from a private party, you will have to handle the title and registration on your own. The seller must provide a valid title and should include a bill of sale, too. The seller needs to properly fill out and sign the title, which includes recording the mileage indicated on the odometer if is has not rolled over 100,000 miles. Vehicles that are more than nine years old also do not require odometer readings. When you obtain a vehicle from a private seller, you cannot drive it until it is titled, insured and registered. You can obtain a temporary move permit that allows you to drive it to your home if needed. You need to insure the vehicle and take the title provided by the seller to a Michigan SOS service center to transfer it to your name. You also can obtain the registration and a license plate if you have acquired the correct amount of liability insurance coverage.

Filling Out the Title

You will need to provide your name and address where the vehicle is parked when not in use. That will help the auto insurer to charge to correct premium. If the car has less than 100,000 miles on the odometer and is less than 10 model years old, you also need to provide the mileage reading. That will help to accurately track mileage from one owner to the next and thwart possible fraud by a potential future owner. The Michigan SOS will assess a registration fee based on the vehicle’s purchase price. If you bought a used car, the registration fee is based on its selling price when it was band new.

Registering the Purchased Vehicle

You need to insure your vehicle before you can register it and get a license plate to drive it on public roads. You must provide proof of insurance and the title to prove you own the vehicle, it is insured and the address where it is parked.

Submitting Payment

The Michigan SOS accepts payments for title and registration services via personal check, money order, cashier’s check, credit card or debit card. You cannot pay with cash.

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Last Verified:
Jul 11, 2022