Buying a Vehicle

Buying from a Private Sale

Consumers should be aware that motor vehicle laws differ for used cars and buyers do not have the same protections as when purchasing from a licensed dealer. Remember, there is no Lemon Law for used cars in Florida.


Before the Sale

When purchasing a used motor vehicle from anyone other than a licensed dealer, consumers should protect themselves by following these tips:

  • Research the vehicle before purchasing. Check the vehicle and tires for recalls.
  • Avoid becoming a victim of odometer fraud; visit the FLHSMV Motor Vehicle Information Check and verify the odometer reading.
  • Check the vehicle’s doors and ignition locks to ensure they have not been tampered with. Check windows for signs of break-ins, such as tool marks and chipped glass.
  • Check windows for an etched VIN. The numbers should all match the VIN on the title.
  • Have the vehicle checked by a mechanic of your choosing. Remember, there is no Lemon Law for used vehicles.
  • Verify the seller’s information on their driver license or ID card to ensure it matches the name on the title. If the title is paper, check for signs of tampering. If the title is electronic, verify ownership by visiting the FLHSMV Motor Vehicle Information Check. Check that the VIN appears the same on the title certificate as it does on the vehicle.
  • Remember, the sales price does not include sales tax or tag and title fees. Expect to pay these fees to a motor vehicle service center when transferring ownership.


Sealing the Deal

Proof of Ownership
Buyers should ask to see the title to verify VIN and ownership. The VIN number on the vehicle and the VIN on the title must match.

Florida has been a title state since 1923, but the motor vehicle laws in other states or countries may require different documentation as proof of ownership. If the seller does not have a valid title, check with a local motor vehicle service center for specific instructions.

Recording the Mileage
An odometer disclosure is included on Florida titles. The odometer reading at the time of purchase will be required on the title application. Both the buyer and seller must acknowledge the odometer disclosure on the title transaction.

VIN Inspection
If the vehicle was not titled previously in Florida, the owner must complete a Vehicle Identification Number and Odometer Verification. This form requires verification by the owner and one of the following:

  • Florida FLHSMV compliance examiner/officer;
  • Licensed Florida motor vehicle dealer;
  • Florida notary public; or
  • Police officer.

Removing the Plates
In a sale, license plates stay with seller not the vehicle. When motor vehicles are sold, the seller must remove the license plate from the vehicle and may transfer the plate to a new or replacement vehicle.

Applying for Title
FLHSMV urges buyers and sellers to complete the transaction in a motor vehicle service center for the protection of both parties. If the title is paper, the owner will complete the Transfer of Title by Seller section on the front of the title certificate. The buyer must complete an Application for Certificate of Title with/without Registration form, attach it to the title and submit to a motor vehicle service center to transfer the title into their name. The purchase price does not include sales tax or tag and title fees. Expect to pay these fees to a local motor vehicle service center when transferring ownership. This must be done within 30 calendar days to avoid a late transfer penalty fee.

If the title is held electronically, the seller and buyer must visit a local motor vehicle service center to complete a secure title reassignment (HSMV 82994 or 82092) and disclose the odometer reading. The buyer and seller must both be present and provide photo identification.

If money was loaned to buy the vehicle, FLHSMV will issue the title reflecting a lien. After the buyer pays off the loan, the lien holder must mark the lien “satisfied.” FLHSMV also requires the lien holder to send a Satisfaction of Lien to the department. The lien holder must complete and file a satisfaction notice within 10 days after the loan is fully paid.

If the vehicle will be titled in another state, the buyer will need to contact that state for proper titling procedures. The buyer may purchase a temporary tag at a motor vehicle service center that will be valid for 30 days so that they may legally drive the vehicle to that state. The buyer must pay Florida sales tax when purchasing the temporary tag.

License Plates and Registrations
Buyers must visit a motor vehicle service center to register a vehicle for the first time. Registration taxes are based on the weight of the vehicle. A valid license plate may be transferred to the new vehicle. Personalized and specialty license plates are available for additional fees.

The operator must possess the registration certificate for a motor vehicle while the vehicle is in use. Florida requires most owners to renew their registrations during the 90 days prior to their birthday. Exceptions will be noted on the registration certificate.

Meeting Insurance Requirements
When applying for a vehicle registration (license plate) the applicant must show proof of valid PIP (Personal Injury Protection) and PDL (Personal Damage Liability) vehicle insurance with a Florida insurance company. The exception is Florida residents on active military duty stationed out-of-state.

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Additional Resources

Florida Attorney General Lemon Law

Recall Search

Motor Vehicle Check

FLHSMV Complaint Form

National Automobile Dealers Association Web site

Motor Vehicle Fraud

Buying and Selling a Vehicle Brochure


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