Buying a Car In Massachusetts From Out Of State

Buying a car in Massachusetts from out of state can be complicated, but the process for registering an out-of-state vehicle is fairly straightforward.
Written by Thidas Senanayaka
Buying a vehicle from a dealer or a private party in
from out of state requires you to apply for registration and title, get a stamp from an insurance agent, and pay Massachusetts sales tax.
If you thought buying a car from out of state was already very complicated, wait till you hear about what you have to do if you live in Massachusetts. The car registration laws are notoriously cumbersome, but not impossible to understand. 
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How to buy a car out of state as a Massachusetts resident

So, you’re a resident of the Bay State that chose to take advantage of the many reasons to buy a vehicle from out of state and now need to register it.
Most people buy from out of state because it gives you a lot more choices to choose from. Imagine you’re looking for used cars—you’ll probably find something you like if you expand your search to other states as well.
Essentially, it’s legal to buy a car from out of state if you live in Massachusetts—but to drive it, you must have a legally acquired title and it needs to be properly registered with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). 
MORE: Buying a car in Massachusetts

Buying from a dealer

If you’re buying from a dealer, the things you need are a
Registration and Title Application
proof of insurance
, proof of ownership, and correct payment, regardless of whether you’re buying from out of state or not. You will also need to provide proof of identity. 
You must then go to a licensed Massachusetts Insurance agent, get an active insurance policy, have the agent stamp the Registration and Title application.
The application must be completed by the agent if you bought the vehicle from an out of state dealer. If you bought from a Massachusetts dealer, they can sign and complete the form. Remember, if there’s a
lien against the vehicle
, the lienholder information has to be accurate. 
Along with the completed application, you should have a bill of sale and one of:
  • A manufacturer’s certificate of origin (new vehicles only)
  • Prior owner’s certificate of title or dealer reassignment form
  • Prior registration if the vehicle is exempt from title due to age
If you’re using a prior owner’s title or a manufacturer’s certificate of origin, make sure it has the following information:
  • The date sold
  • Odometer reading
  • Sale price
  • Signature of you and the dealer or previous owner on the back
Your dealer can then mail this documentation to this address:
Registry of Motor Vehicles
Registration Department
P.O. Box 55895
Boston, MA 02205-5895
Note that this address is only for out-of-state dealers and service providers. The RMV will return documents to the sender if they don’t meet the requirements.
After the sale is finished, you will get a registration certificate, new plates, and a year of expiration decal for the rear plate. Title and mail processing can take an estimated six to weeks—if you have a lien on the car, the title may be mailed to the lienholder instead. 
If you’re leasing the car, the leasing company has to be registered with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. Your application will be rejected until the leasing company is registered. The good news is you can sign documents on behalf of the leasing company—but they need to provide you with power of attorney.
Most people think that buying from out of state can help you benefit from lower sales taxes. This isn’t true—you have to pay sales tax to the state that you live in.
Massachusetts will collect a 6.25% sales tax on the purchase price of your car. If the dealer isn’t registered with the Department of Revenue, the RMV will calculate sales tax based on the trade-in value given by the National Automotive Dealer Association. 
You can expect to pay the standard registration fees for this process as well—though
this will vary
depending on the type of plates you apply for. 

Buying from an individual

If you’re buying from an individual, the requirements are largely the same. The difference is that you must apply in person at the RMV service center. You do need one of the following documents to accompany the completed application instead: 
  • Prior owner’s certificate of title
  • Prior owner’s registration and bill of sale for exempt vehicles
  • Transfer document with mileage
    , signatures and printed names of buyer and seller, and sales price
In addition to the standard fees and 6.25% sales tax, you’ll have to pay $75 for a Certificate of Title fee. Similar processing times apply.

How to buy a car in Massachusetts if you live out of state

What if you live out of state but want to purchase a car from Massachusetts? Clearly you need to transfer the car to where you live somehow, but registering the car with RMV seems too much like overkill. 
This is where Massachusetts gains its reputation for annoyance in registration laws. In most states, you can get a temporary license plate or drive-off tag which allows you to legally operate the vehicle and take it back to your home state after purchasing it. In fact, you can do that in every state…except Massachusetts. 
There are some ways to get around this:
  • Get your vehicle towed or trailered to your home state, and get it registered there
  • Ask your dealer to register the car and transfer registration once you bring it back
  • Take advantage of the seven day transfer law if you are eligible
The Seven Day Transfer law in Massachusetts is a seven-day grace period the state gives you to register to use your new vehicle. But, the requirements are very strict:
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Dispose of the old vehicle
  • The new vehicle has to be the same type and have the same number of wheels as your old one
  • Keep your new vehicle documentation and physically place plates from your old vehicle into your new one

What if I don’t have a physical title?

Since getting registration requires using the mail or applying in-person, you will need a physical copy of your proof of ownership. If you’ve lost or damaged, the outside state will likely have ways to provide you with a replacement you can use instead. 
MORE: Replacement title in Massachusetts
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Tips for buying a vehicle out of state

The process may seem very complicated, but if you have some good habits, you can save yourself from a lot of headaches. Here are some additional tips for out of state vehicle buying:
  • Get a vehicle history report
  • Have an inspection done
  • Conduct emissions testing
  • Make sure you know what your tax obligations are
  • Obtain title to the car

How to save on car insurance in Massachusetts

As you can tell, insurance is a very big part of buying a new vehicle—especially if you’re doing it in Massachusetts. If you want a sale done as quickly as possible, you may not have time to
shop around for an insurance policy
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