Tom Corbett, Governor Barry J. Schoch, P.E., Secretary, Department of Transportation

Buying a Vehicle

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 Documents
Buying a New Vehicle
Buying a Used Vehicle with a Pennsylvania Title
Buying a Used Vehicle with an Out of State Title
Department of Revenue: 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

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. If you are a business or non-profit organization buying a car, please make sure you bring the acceptable identification requirements with you as well.

A copy of your current insurance identification card 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 fact sheet.

Buying a Used Vehicle with a Pennsylvania Title

Pennsylvania titles 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 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. If you are a business or non-profit organization buying a car, please make sure you bring the acceptable identification requirements with you as well.

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

If the vehicle is being given as a gift, the Form MV-13ST, “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.

When buying a car 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. If you are a business or non-profit organization buying a car, please make sure you bring the acceptable identification requirements with you as well.

A copy of your current insurance identification 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, “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.

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