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Buying or selling a Vehicle

BUYING And selling a VEHICLE in pennsylvania

The following information will assist you with the proper procedures when buying a vehicle in Pennsylvania. The buyer and seller should meet at the office of a notary public, tag service, or motor vehicle dealer to ensure the title application is completed correctly. If the car is financed, the certificate of title in your name will be mailed to the lienholder. If the vehicle is not financed, the certificate of title in your name will be sent directly to you.

Acceptable Proof of Ownership | Buying New | Selling New | Buying Used (PA) | Buying Used (Out-of-State) | Motor Vehicle Understated Value Program


 

ACCEPTABLE PROOF OF OWNERSHIP DOCUMENTS

Vehicle ownership documents issued by vehicle manufacturers and titling jurisdictions that provide specific vehicle information and used as the legal document to transfer ownership of the vehicle are known as “proof of ownership” documents. The following are the acceptable proof of ownership documents:

Manufacturer Certificate/Statement of Origin (MCO or MSO)
Pennsylvania Certificate of Title
Out of State Certificate of Title
Certificate of Salvage
Court Order (PDF)

Buying a NEW VEHICLE 

If you are titling and registering a 2008 or newer vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 pounds or less, and it has less than 7,500 miles on the odometer, your vehicle must be certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). For more information about this program, visit the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program page.

MCO and MSO documents are used in conjunction with Form MV-1, “Application for Certificate of Title.” This form is only available from authorized agents of PennDOT.

You will need to provide several items to the agent to complete your application. Please take a copy of your current Pennsylvania Drivers License or Pennsylvania Photo Identification (PDF). If you are a business or non-profit organization buying a car, please make sure you bring the acceptable identification requirements (PDF) with you as well.

A copy of your current insurance identification card (PDF) is required if registration is to be issued.

The dealer where you purchased your new vehicle is responsible for sending the title application to PennDOT. More information can be found in the Buying or Selling Your Car in Pennsylvania (PDF) fact sheet.


Selling a New Vehicle

When selling a vehicle, the seller must sign and handprint their name on the proof of ownership document.  The seller’s signature is required to be notarized or verified on the Pennsylvania title. The seller’s signature may be required to be notarized on some out-of-state titles. The seller will need to provide the authorized PennDOT agent with proper proof of identification (PDF). If the vehicle is owned by a business, the person acting on behalf of the business must be an authorized individual or provide proper proof of authorization to act on behalf of the business. Additional information on this authorization may be viewed in our Identification Requirements for Completion of Motor Vehicle Applications by Business Organizations or Non-Profit Corporations (PDF) fact sheet. 

The seller must indicate the mileage of the vehicle in the appropriate spaces provided on the ownership document. After the title is transferred, the seller must remove the license plate from the vehicle. The license plate should be returned to PennDOT at Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Return Tag Unit, P.O. Box 68597, Harrisburg, PA 17106-8597, unless the seller is planning to transfer the plate to another vehicle.  More information may be viewed in our Buying or Selling Your Car in Pennsylvania (PDF) fact sheet.


Buying a USED VEHICLE WITH A PENNSYLVANIA certificate of TITLE

Pennsylvania Certificate of Titles (PDF) are used in conjunction with Form MV-4ST, “Vehicle Sales and Use Tax Return/Application for Registration.” This form is only available from authorized agents of PennDOT.

In addition to the Pennsylvania title you will need to provide several items to the agent to complete your title application. More information can be found in the Buying or Selling Your Car in Pennsylvania (PDF) fact sheet.

You will need to provide several items to the agent to complete your application. Please take a copy of your current Pennsylvania Drivers License or Pennsylvania Photo Identification (PDF). If you are a business or non-profit organization buying a car, please make sure you bring the acceptable identification requirements (PDF) with you as well.

A copy of your current insurance identification card (PDF) is required if registration is to be issued.

If the vehicle is being given as a gift, the Form MV-13ST (PDF), “Affidavit of Gift” must be attached to the title application. This form must be completed by all transferees and transferors and attached to Form MV-1 or MV-4ST for any transfer for which a gift exemption (Exemption 13) for purposes of Pennsylvania Sales and Use Tax is claimed.

Buying a USED VEHICLE WITH AN OUT OF STATE TITLE 

Out of State titles are used in conjunction with Form MV-1, “Application for Certificate of Title.” This form is only available from authorized agents of PennDOT.

Many times out-of-state lienholders refuse to release the title in their possession to another state unless the lien has been satisfied. Applicants are required to contact their lienholders prior to completing their MV-1 application to determine whether or not the lienholder will release the out of state title to the vehicle owner. More information can be found on our How to Title and Register Your Out of State Vehicle fact sheet (PDF).

When buying a car (PDF) which has been titled in another state, the purchaser should check the back of the title carefully. There should be a place for the seller’s signature and the car’s present odometer reading. The seller’s signature may be required to be notarized on some out-of-state titles. It is a good idea to consult a dealer, tag service, notary or the Bureau of Motor Vehicles about out-of-state title transfers.

You will need to provide several items to the agent to complete your application. Please take a copy of your current Pennsylvania Drivers License or Pennsylvania Photo Identification Card (PDF). If you are a business or non-profit organization buying a car, please make sure you bring the acceptable identification requirements (PDF) with you as well.

A copy of your current insurance identification (PDF) card is required if registration is to be issued.

VIN verification is required for out of state vehicles.

If the vehicle is being given as a gift, the Form MV-13ST (PDF), “Affidavit of Gift” must be attached to the title application. This form must be completed by all transferees and transferors and attached to Form MV-1 or MV-4ST for any transfer for which a gift exemption (Exemption 13) for purposes of Pennsylvania Sales and Use Tax is claimed.

DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE: MOTOR VEHICLE UNDERSTATED VALUE PROGRAM 

When purchasing or selling used vehicles (including motorcycles) in Pennsylvania, many taxpayers are unaware that sales tax due to the Department of Revenue is a percentage of the fair market value of a vehicle, rather than a percentage of the purchase price. When a purchase price is set considerably lower than fair market value – as often happens in transactions between family members – the PA Department of Revenue has the authority to review the transaction to determine and collect the correct amount of sales tax due. For more information, please visit the Motor Vehicle Understated Value Program page on the PA Department of Revenue’s website.