4 steps to take after buying a car

Unfortunately, the job isn’t quite done once you’ve successfully negotiated and purchased your new vehicle. Before you embark on long road trips or get too settled into your daily commute, there are a few crucial things you need to do first, like registering your new car, getting insurance, and planning for future inspections.

These steps will allow you to have legal ownership of your new wheelset and be able to enjoy the road worry-free.

The 4 steps to follow after buying a car

Before you put your new vehicle into service, take the time to finalize important ownership details.

1. Register your new car

Registering your new vehicle is one of the most essential steps after purchase, it is illegal to operate your vehicle without valid state registration. If you bought a new car, the dealer probably took care of the registration, but confirm it before you hit the road. Otherwise, you will need to make an appointment and go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to register your new car.

The process varies slightly from state to state, but more often than not, you will need the following documents to register your vehicle:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Deed of sale of the vehicle
  • Proof of state residency
  • Vehicle insurance proof
  • Vehicle title
  • Loan documents
  • Proof of passing the state emissions test

Check your state’s DMV website to confirm the necessary documentation before you go to the appointment.

2. Exchange your insurance

Car insurance protects your finances to cover any unexpected accidents or costs associated with owning a vehicle. Once you have purchased a vehicle, you will also need to obtain new coverage or modify your existing policy.

The type of coverage you need varies depending on the type of vehicle, usage and the state in which you live. But each state has minimum coverage required to drive legally, so confirm your home’s regulations before signing. Check out Bankrate’s guide to finding insurance while shopping to get your needed insurance as soon as possible.

3. Read the owner’s manual

Although it may seem tedious to read the manual cover to cover, it helps to familiarize yourself with the features of your new car. This way you can get the most out of your new vehicle and confirm that you are using all the available safety technologies and features correctly.

4. Organize future maintenance

Maintaining your vehicle is one of the biggest ongoing costs you’ll face, so it’s best to be prepared for upcoming mechanical trips. Your new car won’t require any maintenance right away, but check the manual as well as online vehicle forums for a list of required maintenance. This way you can book an appointment in advance and budget for upcoming costs.

Considerations when buying from a reseller

Although buying from a dealership has the added benefit that the dealership takes care of much of the heavy lifting, there may still be some steps you need to take yourself.

Add temporary vehicle tags

In some states, you will receive temporary tags directly from the dealership. This is just a temporary license plate to use before getting your official plates. Deadlines vary by state, but are essential and serve as proof that the vehicle is registered. Consult your state-specific regulations if your dealer does not handle temporary plates.

Considerations when buying from a private seller

If you buy a vehicle from a private seller, there are some additional steps you should take to ensure that you have full legal ownership and walk away with a car in the best possible condition.

Transfer vehicle title

Transferring a vehicle title takes two main steps, with the seller releasing ownership and then you, the new owner, repossessing ownership to the DMV. Unlike buying from a reseller, this step has to be done yourself. As with many of these considerations, check with your local DMV for specific regulations, as each state varies slightly.

You will need the following documents:

  • Deed of sale of the vehicle
  • Date of sale
  • Car insurance
  • Name and address of buyer and consignee
  • License Information

Take the car for a vehicle inspection

Although you should have your vehicle checked by a trusted mechanic before purchase, it is always wise to go for it once the vehicle is also in your care. Doing this early can be helpful in finding mechanical issues that need fixing. It can also help you build a valuable relationship with a trusted mechanic. Some specific things to look out for include checking tires, brakes, and filters.

Next steps

Once you’ve completed these steps, be sure to place your registration, title, and insurance in your glove compartment for safekeeping. Now the vehicle is all yours and you can enjoy the freedom that comes with owning a vehicle.

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