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How to Buy a Car in Massachusetts

in Car buying tips
Jeep with Massachusetts plates parked near a beach.

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If you’ve only bought cars in one state, you may think that the paperwork you provided and laws you had to follow are the same in every other state. But the U.S. is a big place, and from Alabama to Washington, each state has its own rules and regulations you should be aware of when purchasing your next vehicle.

In this article, we’re going to show you ​how to buy a car in Massachusetts​. Whether you’re new to the state or buying your first car, Copilot is here to make sure you’re prepared.

How to Buy a Car in Massachusetts​: Specific Laws and Paperwork

The paperwork Massachusetts requires when you’re purchasing a new or used vehicle is pretty standard. You will need:

  • The title. ​This is the most important piece of paperwork involved in the sale of a vehicle. You will need it when registering the car in your name for the first time. And as the Massachusetts DMV says, “It can also help you verify information such as the seller’s name and the odometer reading.”
  • Proof of insurance.​ When registering your new car, you need to bring insurance information with you. This is because in Massachusetts, your proof of insurance will be printed on your vehicle’s registration. This means less individual documents to worry about if you get pulled over!
  • You should also come prepared with 75 dollars to cover the title transfer fee. And keep in mind that you will need to pay 6.25 percent sales tax on your new car. Registration fees vary whether you’re buying new from a dealer or used, and we’ll go over that later in this post.

One other important thing to know is that ​Massachusetts has a universal “lemon law.”​ Private-party sellers should tell you up front if there are any defects in the car that make it dangerous to drive, or harmful to the environment. This goes for dealerships as well.

If you buy a car and get it inspected and you find something wrong with your new car, you can “arbitrate” the sale and get your money back. Or, if you bought it from a dealership, you can get them to repair it for you on their dime. Keep in mind however that this law ONLY applies to defects or that make the car unsafe. Cosmetic damage doesn’t count.


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How to Buy a Car in Massachusetts​ From a Dealer New

First things first: Massachusetts encourages you, the car-buyer, to research your dealership before making a purchase from them. MA wants you to get a fair deal when purchasing your vehicle, and keeps a ​database of complaints registered against dealerships​ across the state. If you already have a dealership in mind, double check to make sure they’re not on that list.

If you’re buying a new car, you may choose to lease it. In Massachusetts, the ​interest rate on a car lease can’t exceed 21 percent​, so make sure that any financial plan you enter complies with this law. If they want over 21, say “no thank you,” and report them.

If everything looks good, go for it. Make sure that you bring pay stubs or a recent credit report with you so you can quickly get approved for your loan.

Because brand-new cars don’t yet have ownership titles, ​your dealer will assist you​ in filling out an application for one. Once you’ve paid for your car or made appropriate leasing arrangements, the dealer will send the application to the Massachusetts DMV for approval. You will then need to prove that you have insurance and pay the registration fee, as well as 50 dollars for new license plates. Once that’s done, all that’s left to do is enjoy your new vehicle!


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Once you’ve decided which car you’d like to purchase, it’s important to get all the facts of your vehicle so you know what you’re getting into. Some ​disreputable dealerships might ask you​ to sign the purchase agreement before you see the title. You should insist on seeing the title and (if available) vehicle history before you fill out any paperwork.

A used car title will contain vital information about the vehicle, including things like whether it’s ever been stolen, totaled, or flooded. In Massachusetts, they call this a “branded” title, and vehicles with this stamp on their record may be more difficult or expensive to insure.

It is also important that you read over the terms of your purchase agreement before signing. Your dealer should be truthful and forthcoming about the cost of the car, additional fees, and conditions of the vehicle. If everything looks in order, you should be good to go!

Massachusetts also requires that ​newly purchased vehicles go through a standard inspection​ within 7 days of registration. If any flaws are found during this exam, that’s when lemon laws kick in, and you can have the dealership fix the defects for free.


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How to Buy a Car in Massachusetts​ From the Owner

If you’re purchasing your next car directly from a previous owner,​ you will need a bill of sale. This is simply a document stating that you are buying the car from this person, for “x” amount.

Ideally the seller will have this document in hand, but it is also a good idea for you to bring one with you just in case. You can find templates to help you make an official-looking bill of sale online.

Then you will need to transfer the title. If the seller has full ownership, you will just need to fill out the title transfer on the back, which you will then bring to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV.)

If the seller doesn’t have the title because of an outstanding lease, it may be possible for you to accompany them to the dealership and help them pay the remainder of their lease and get the title that way. (We don’t recommend doing it this way, unless the car you’re buying is truly your dream vehicle and worth the extra hassle.)

Of course you will then need to prove that you have insurance. You should take the title immediately to your insurance provider and get it stamped before you register. Once you have obtained registration, you will need to get your new car inspected, just like a car purchased from a dealership.

The Massachusetts Vehicle Check program exists to make sure cars are safe to drive, and passing the state’s emissions standards. If you pass, you get a sticker and permission to drive away!

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