Everything You Need to Bring When Buying a Car

Nothing screams “freedom” like driving out of the dealership in your brand new vehicle — windows down, wind in your hair, smile on your face. Unfortunately, the steps it takes to get there can be a bit cumbersome because it seems like there’s always just a little more paperwork than you were expecting!

The good news? The amount of time it takes to get those shiny new keys and drive off into the sunset largely depends on you. Buyers who come prepared with all the paperwork and documentation they need can look forward to a streamlined process — and to customer service reps and finance managers who are in an excellent mood. (Who knows? Being a well-prepared customer may even help you negotiate a better deal!)

It’s probably been a while since the last time you bought a vehicle, so let’s take a look at all the stuff you should take with you!

  1. Your Payment

Let’s start with the obvious point — the money. 

Buyers who plan to pay cash should be prepared with a certified check or cashier’s check, or they may be able to arrange for the funds to be transferred electronically. If you’re getting a loan from a bank or credit union, take pre-approval documents from your lender with you. 

Those customers who intend to finance their investment through the dealership can bring a personal check for the down payment and set up credit card payments. However, you should also be prepared to prove that you can honor your monthly payments and be aware of your credit score. 

Thanks to efficient electronic processes, it’s usually no longer necessary to bring copies of your pay stubs or anything like that. However, you may consider doing that if your credit score is less than optimal or you have recently been the victim of fraud.

Don’t forget that you’ll have to deal with sales tax, too. Find out how much you have to pay in advance, so that you are fully prepared.

  1. Driver’s License 

You’ll need a valid driver’s license to drive your new ride off the dealership’s property, but, of course, bringing this document serves a dual purpose. After all, the dealer will also need an accepted form of identification. 

On a similar note, many dealerships will require proof of address, too. Bring along a copy of a recent utility bill so you can fulfill this request.

  1. Proof of Insurance

You won’t be able to drive your new vehicle home until you supply proof of insurance. You’ll often be able to set your new policy up as soon as you’re sure what model you’re buying, but that won’t help you if you aren’t sure yet. Give your insurer a call to supply the car’s VIN number from the dealership to activate your auto coverage if you make an on-the-spot decision (not usually recommended).

  1. Trade-In Paperwork

Buyers who are planning to trade an older vehicle in should always be prepared with the relevant paperwork. This may include:

  • Loan account numbers and paperwork if your trade-in vehicle hasn’t been completely paid off yet. (Your lender may also be able to make these arrangements in some cases, so check — it could speed up the process!)
  • Your previous car’s title and registration. 

Be aware that if you’re trading in a car, the employees who organize the transfer for you may not be working during weekends. It’s a good idea to complete the purchase on a weekday in this case. 

  1. Rebates and Incentives

A new car is a significant investment, so you’ll definitely want to take the opportunity to participate in manufacturer incentives and rebate offers if you are eligible. 

Some incentives apply to all customers, while others are only available to members of the military, recent graduates, members of certain associations or credit unions, or healthcare workers and first responders. Yet others apply to the dealership’s loyal customers. 

Where necessary, bring the paperwork to prove that you qualify! 

  1. Commercial Customers

If you’re purchasing a car for your business, the documentation you need looks quite a bit different. In these cases, come prepared with your business license or registration, EIN (Employer Identification Number), financial statements, and similar documents. 

The paperwork you’ll need to bring will vary depending on your business structure. For example, partnerships should take their Partnership Agreements along, while corporations need Articles of Incorporation. 

You’ll also need commercial auto insurance, vehicle registration forms, and proof of your business address. When authorizing an employee to make the purchase, you’ll need written permission. 

Beyond that, the process is surprisingly similar to purchasing a car for personal purposes, and you can still benefit from checking the other items on this list.

  1. Online Purchases 

Internet-based car dealerships are becoming more popular these days, so you may wonder how the paperwork differs if you decide to go this route. It won’t surprise you that you’ll need the exact same documentation when you buy online, but the way in which you provide it will differ. 

You can expect to be asked to scan the relevant documents and upload them to the website or send them via email. The dealership will then take a while to verify their authenticity. 

Online sellers typically have an electronic signature process set up, allowing you to complete the entire sales process through the internet. Don’t worry, though — they’ll send you physical copies for your convenience and records. 

  1. A Final Word

A smooth buying experience can make all the difference! As you gear up to get a new ride, start your journey by gathering all the relevant documents. Just like you should never walk into a dealership without a quick refresher course in negotiation skills (or plenty of knowledge about the models you’re considering), taking care of the necessary paperwork in advance will really help you out.

This quick guide covers all the things you could possibly need. Now, just picture yourself walking onto the lot with a folder full of documents — and driving off in your new vehicle very soon after that!