Our car recently broke down, and it would have cost more than it was worth to fix it. After looking around for several weeks, we found out a friend of mine was selling one of her cars, and we soon realized it would be perfect for our current situation. Everyone involved was excited, but we soon ran into a snafu. I hadn’t ever bought a car from a private party before. She had never sold one. I looked around online for advice. There were a lot of articles about what you should look for when looking at a car, but there was little about the actual transfer of ownership. Fortunately, we figured it out, and I can now share my experience with you.
The first thing we did was write up a bill of sale. Included in the bill of sale were our names and addresses, a description of the car (including VIN#), and an agreement that the car was sold “as is, no warranty.” We each signed the agreement, and we kept a copy for our records. With the signed agreement, I bought insurance for the car, because in order to continue I would need proof of insurance. I would also need my driver’s license.
Once the agreement was final, we notarized the title. A notary fee is typically only $5.00, and most tag offices have notaries for the purpose of car titles. You can also usually find a notary at your bank, post office, or court house. The notary watches both parties sign the title. I paid my friend for the car and received the title. As I was buying from a friend we didn’t worry too much about the money/title exchange. When buying from a stranger you will want to bring cash and receive the title at the same time they receive the money. You may also want to wait to buy insurance when the notarized title is actually in your hand. The DMV will then send off your notarized title so that you will get a new one. You will need to pay for the transfer, the notary, and the tax on the car. This total cost typically runs 3-5% of the cars selling price. I paid $3000 for my car and just under $150 for tax, title, and notary. My friend who bought a $12,000 car paid around $450.
At any rate, I was mobile again! Or…was I? My “new” car now needed a tag. This caused a bit of a problem, because an inspection sticker is required to get a tag here in NC. In order to get the car inspected I was going to have to drive it, but I couldn’t drive it without a tag. In most states, the DMN will provide you with a temporary tag if needed. North Carolina does not give out temporary tags. Instead, you receive a 10-day travel permit to carry with you. If you get pulled over, you show your temporary travel permit to explain why you do not have a tag. It is still important to drive the car as little as possible while you do not have an official license plate. If you are pulled over with your travel permit, you will still receive a warning ticket. This is because the police must document all traffic stops. After the car is inspected, the DMV will give you a license plate. Make sure that you have screws to screw the plate onto your car. I got mine at the DMV, but they are also available at most auto parts stores.
In short, buying a car can be an overwhelming process. You need to have a bill of sale, a notarized title, proof of insurance, and your driver’s license in order to transfer the title. Be prepared to pay a little more out of pocket at that time. You will receive either a temporary tag or, in NC, a 10-day travel permit. After an inspection you will have license and registration once again. Happy Driving.