Buying a used car? Sing the DMV blues

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We’ve all heard of the hassles associated with buying or selling a used car and transferring ownership through your state’s department of motor vehicles, or DMV. The horror stories alone might be one of the biggest reasons many people trade in their old cars for new at a dealership. The dealership typically handles all of the paperwork for you. But if you are buying or selling a car privately, then you’ll need to deal with the DMV. Follow these guidelines to save yourself some of the most common headaches.

Start at the DMV website. Avoid long lines and on-hold wait times by first consulting the website for your state’s DMV. Most states have comprehensive websites that provide step-by-step instructions for common situations (some even have instructional videos) as well as downloadable forms that can help shorten your DMV visit. Look for the section that describes your state’s process for selling or buying a used car. Read all the steps carefully, and make notes of all the documentation you need.

Look for DMV alternatives. In many states, you may be able to avoid the DMV altogether in transferring the title of a car by going to a third-party source such as AAA for the transaction. The DMV website should state whether using a vehicle registration service is allowed and sometimes will list companies that provide the service. Avoiding the DMV line will cost you. These companies usually require a fee or membership for their services.

Have a clear title. Perhaps the most common problem when selling or buying a used car, and transferring ownership, is a problem with the title. The title should be signed by the person or people whose name or names are listed on it as well as a representative of the lender if the car has a current auto loan.

Complete all forms correctly. Many states require various forms in addition to the title, when transferring the title of a used car. By visiting the state DMV website in advance, you can easily access all the necessary forms. Have them ready when you are finalizing the car sale or purchase with the other party. Be sure both parties complete the forms correctly and that the information matches. For example, if the title has the seller’s name written one way and the forms have a different variation of the seller’s name, there could be trouble getting the car registered.

Like so many aspects of buying a car or selling one, doing thorough research in advance can save time and headaches in the long run.

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If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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