What To Bring When You Buy A Car

February 1, 2011

One of the benefits of buying a car, truck, or SUV from major car dealer is you can walk into their showroom in the morning and drive away in your new car a few hours later. Yet, when I was Internet Manager for a major car dealer, I saw how many unprepared customers forgot to bring the paperwork or documents that were necessary to complete the deal. Inevitably, this delayed the process for them, and created extra paperwork for the dealership.

Bring your cards

If you want to test drive a car—a necessary step prior to making a purchase—you need to bring your driver’s license. Many dealerships ask to make a copy of your driver’s license before they’ll let you drive their cars. And if you want to buy a car, chances are you need to provide your driver’s license and a current proof of insurance card before they can complete the paperwork.

If you are applying for a car loan at the dealership, the lender usually requires proof of full insurance coverage before they’ll let you drive the car home. In most states, your existing proof of insurance card will suffice. You have a period of time after the sale (days or weeks) to notify the insurance company of the additional vehicle that has been purchased. As long as you make the notification within the required time period, your new vehicle is fully insured. If in doubt, check with your insurance company before buying another vehicle.

If you don’t have full insurance on a vehicle prior to walking into the dealership, simply make sure your insurance company or agent will be available via telephone immediately after the purchase. Contact them with the year, make and model, vehicle identification number (VIN), and miles on the car you just purchased. Once they complete the paperwork and receive payment (credit or debit card over the phone),they can fax proof of insurance to the dealership so you can drive your new vehicle  home.


Do you have a trade? Remember to bring the “Certificate of Title” or pink slip. This will save the dealership from having to request a duplicate title from the DMV, which can delay their ability to process your trade. It’s also a good idea to make sure you clean out the car before you leave home. Check under the seats, the trunk and glove box, the driver’s visor (where many people store CDs or papers), as well as the CD player itself. Bring the manuals and extra keys and leave them in the car.

Finally, you won’t believe how many customers I worked with who forgot their check book at home. Even if you plan on financing the entire cost of the vehicle, it’s usually a good idea to bring your check book in case you run into something you hadn’t thought of.

Good luck. And for goodness sake, try to have fun with the process.

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