Buying a Car in Alabama From Out of State

The process of buying a car in Alabama from out of state is fairly simple. Here’s how it works!
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Amy Bobinger
background
If you live in
Alabama
but purchased a vehicle from out of state, you’ll have to apply for an Alabama title before you can register it. You’ll also need to pay any registration fees, taxes, and surcharges required by the county where you register your car.

How to buy a car out of state as an Alabama resident

If you live in Alabama, but you bought your car in a different state, you’ll have to
transfer the title
to Alabama before you can apply for a
vehicle registration
. So just how do you go about that?
Luckily, the process isn’t too difficult, and you’re far from uncharted territory. Plenty of Huntsville residents might go across state lines to Tennessee to find the used car that fits their needs. You’ll have to pay Alabama
sales tax
and submit documentation to the
Alabama MVD
.
Do note that you’ll have to do the Alabama title transfer in person.
Here’s what you’ll need to get from the seller when you buy your out-of-state car:
  • Completed and signed title assignment on Certificate of Title
  • Current/most recent out-of-state registration documents
  • Dealer’s affidavit and
    VIN
    /Ownership documentation if purchased from a dealer
  • Odometer disclosure statement
    if the vehicle is fewer than 10 years old, less than 16,000 pounds, and purchased from a dealer 
  • If you are leasing the vehicle, you need ower of attorney form from the leasing company allowing for registration of the vehicle and a copy of the lease agreement
Once you’re back in Alabama, you’ll need to visit your county
license plate
issuing office to transfer the title and register your vehicle. You’ll be required to pay an auto title transfer fee and submit your car for a
VIN inspection
.
Unless you’re a member of the Armed Forces stationed in Alabama, you’ll need to proceed to registration once the title is transferred. In addition to any previously mentioned documents, here are the things you’ll need for registration:
When you visit the MVD, bring the vehicle in question so its VIN can be inspected. Once everything is in order, you’ll get your Alabama plates/registration sticker.
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How to buy a car in Alabama if you live out of state

Okay, so what if you don’t live in Alabama, but you’re buying a car here? You’ll have to keep a lot of the same things in mind as have been previously mentioned, but specifics do vary based on the state you live in. Here are some general things you’ll likely need to get from the seller:
  • Certificate of Title signed by all sellers, including an odometer disclosure if the car is fewer than 10 years old
  • Bill of sale (with notary stamp if required in your state)
  • Current registration and current safety inspection certificates
You’ll need to register your vehicle in your state of residency, where you’ll be required to pay local taxes and applicable registration fees.

What if I don’t have a physical title?

Some states may not require that a title be issued for your car, specifically if you purchase from a dealer. If this is the case, you can use the vehicle registration certificate in place of the title.
If you purchased the vehicle from a private party, you are required to have a title. This means the seller might have to request a copy of the title from their state’s DMV.

Tips for buying a vehicle out of state

Buying a car from another state might be necessary to get the car or price you’re looking for, but it does complicate the car-buying process as a whole. Follow these tips to make sure you have your bases covered:
  • Get the
    vehicle history report
    . You’d be surprised how many private sellers sell damaged cars, hoping you don’t get the
    CARFAX
    or other vehicle history service report. This is extremely valuable information that you shouldn’t go without.
  • Take the vehicle for a professional inspection when you’re back in your home state.
  • Remember emissions testing! Emissions testing is not required in Alabama, but it might be required if you’re buying in Alabama and registering in another state.
  • Research your home state’s vehicle sales tax laws. You’ll have to pay taxes in your home county, not in the state where you buy the car.
  • Buy
    car insurance
    before you leave the dealership. You need car insurance that meets the
    Alabama state minimum requirements
    to legally drive any car in Alabama, so don’t drive home until you have it!

How to save on car insurance in Alabama

Car insurance is one of the most important things to have in order for any car that you own, regardless of what you drive or where you live! But if you’re already dealing with all this extra paperwork when buying an out-of-state vehicle, you might not want to take the time when
shopping for auto insurance
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