Skip to main content

Buying, selling, or leasing

Vehicle ownership 

To own and operate a vehicle on public roads in Michigan, it must be registered with a valid license plate and tab, have an assigned vehicle title, and be insured under a valid Michigan No-Fault insurance plan. If you’re buying or selling a vehicle, these documents are essential for completing the transfer of ownership. 

  • Title 

    When you purchase a vehicle, a new title will be issued to you for proof of ownership. Always keep your title in a safe place. Never keep it in your vehicle.

    Be sure to review your title carefully for accuracy. If there are any errors, visit a Secretary of State office to correct your title.

    If you ever sell your vehicle, you will need the title to transfer ownership to the new buyer.

    Information about titles 

    Registration and license plate

    In addition to proof of Michigan No-Fault insurance, you must have a valid vehicle registration, tab, and license plate to own and operate your vehicle in Michigan. 

    Information about license plates

  • You may request current ownership, a complete history, or a partial history of a vehicle for specified dates, if you have a legally valid reason for doing so

    Vehicle records

  • Before buying a new or used vehicle, check to make sure that all equipment and options ordered have been included. If you’re buying a used vehicle, it’s also recommended that you have it inspected by a mechanic before purchasing it. 

    The seller is required to give you the original vehicle title (not a photocopy) with the seller’s portion completed, an accurate odometer reading or disclosure statement, and their signature. If there is more than one owner on the title, all the owners must sign it before it can be transferred into your name. 

    Additionally, the odometer reading entered by the seller and vehicle identification number (VIN) on the title match the vehicle's odometer reading and VIN.

    Note: Making changes, such as crossing out a name, invalidates the title. 

Buying a vehicle

Whether you are buying your vehicle at a dealership, in a private sale, or from a family member, or if you are leasing, you will need the following to register your vehicle and drive it on public roads in Michigan:

  • The vehicle title
  • Valid vehicle registration tab and license plate
  • Proof of valid Michigan No-Fault insurance for the vehicle

Title transfer

 

  • When buying a new or used vehicle from a dealership, the dealer is responsible for:

    • Providing all necessary forms and ownership documents
    • Collecting the necessary fees and taxes
    • Filing the title application with the Michigan Department of State or at a Secretary of State office within 15 days from the date of delivery
    • Handling the purchase or transfer of your license plate
    • Providing copies of all paperwork

    By law, the dealer must give you a copy of each document when you sign it. Make sure to review all documents before you sign. 

    The dealer should give you copies of your:

    • Application for Michigan Title - Statement of Vehicle Sale (RD-108)
    • Any written warranty on the vehicle or any services purchased (such as rustproofing or an extended service contract)
    • Odometer mileage statement (if buying a new vehicle)
    • Buyer's Guide window sticker (if buying a used vehicle)
    • Finance contract lease agreement 

    If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, the dealer must show you the previous owner's title. Examine the title carefully. 

    The dealer will also provide you with your new license plate and registration.

    • If you're purchasing a new plate, a 15-day temporary registration affixed to the rear window. 
    • If you're transferring a plate, this will be noted on your Application for a Michigan Title.

    Most dealerships handle all paperwork, required documents, and collection of 6% sales tax, which means you won’t need to visit a Secretary of State office. If you have questions about your vehicle title and registration, contact your dealer first. 

  • If purchasing a vehicle from a private seller, you – as the buyer – and the seller are responsible for handling all required documents to transfer ownership of the vehicle. To transfer ownership of a vehicle you purchased in a private sale, you will need:

    • The original vehicle title with: 
      • Complete and accurate odometer reading or mileage statement
      • Seller’s portion completed
      • Seller’s signature
    • Proof of Michigan No-Fault insurance
    • Valid driver’s license or ID (for both the buyer and the seller)

    As soon as you purchase the vehicle, you will need to transfer the title within 15 days at a Secretary of State office. It is strongly recommended that you and the seller visit a Secretary of State office together to complete this step. 

    If you don’t plan to complete the title transfer with the seller at a Secretary of State office:

    • Ensure that the seller has completed the seller’s portion of the title correctly and provided their signature and an accurate odometer disclosure statement.
    • Check that there isn’t a lien against the vehicle. If there is, the seller will need to provide their lien termination statement or the title signed by the financial institution the loan is through. 

    At your visit, you will be issued a license plate, vehicle registration, and tab after paying all title and registration fees and payment for 6% sales tax. If you’d like to transfer a license plate from a vehicle you already own to your new vehicle, you may do so at the time of your visit. 
    Once issued, immediately put your tab and license plate on your vehicle.
    Your corrected title will be mailed to you or, if there’s a loan against the vehicle, your lienholder after your visit. If your lienholder is enrolled in the Electronic Lien and Title System (ELT), an electronic copy will be stored with the lienholder and the Michigan Department of State.

    Schedule an office visit

    Title transfer 

    Plate transfer   

  • All of the conditions that apply when buying a vehicle from an individual in a private sale also apply when buying, inheriting, or being gifted a vehicle from a family member. 

    However, 6% sales tax isn’t due with vehicle sales or transfers to certain relatives, including the seller’s:

    • Spouse 
    • Parent, stepparent, legal ward, or legal guardian
    • Child or stepchild
    • Sibling or stepsibling 
    • Grandparent
    • Grandchild
    • Parent-in-law (mother/father-in-law)
    • Sibling-in-law (sister/brother-in-law)
    • Child-in-law (son/daughter-in-law)
    • Grandparent-in-law

    You can also transfer a license plate to the above relatives during a vehicle sale. 

    If the vehicle owner is deceased and their surviving relatives want to transfer ownership of the vehicle, the requirements for transferring the registration and title will vary. 

    Schedule an office visit

    Information about titles  

    Plate transfer

  • If you purchased your vehicle outside of Michigan, you may convert the out-of-state title to a Michigan title and register the vehicle in Michigan. To do so, visit a Secretary of State office and provide the following:

    • The out-of-state vehicle title
    • Your valid driver’s license or state ID
    • Proof of Michigan No-Fault insurance for the vehicle 
    • The out-of-state vehicle registration (if the vehicle was registered in another state)
    • A lien termination statement or title signed by the institution issuing a loan (if there is a lien against the vehicle)

    If your title is being held by an out-of-state lienholder, provide the above documents and one of the following:

    • Photocopy or fax of your out-of-state title
    • Memo title
    • Recently validated title application
    • Vehicle record printed on the issuing state's Department of Motor Vehicles letterhead verifying the vehicle is titled in that state

    The Michigan Department of State can issue you a limited memo registration but will not convert it to a Michigan title. The out-of-state title will continue to be your ownership document.

    Schedule an office visit 

    Information about titles  

  • Vehicles that are purchased overseas must meet federal standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT). The Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) should indicate whether the vehicle was manufactured to meet these standards.

    You can only import a vehicle from overseas if the vehicle meets the United States federal EPA and DOT standards and the transaction is conducted by a certified importer, who will convert the odometer reading to miles and arrange custom duties.
    To import a vehicle that was manufactured for sale in the United States, you will need to provide:

    • The vehicle title and ownership documents
    • Proof of a valid Michigan No-Fault insurance policy for the vehicle
    • U.S. Customs and Border Protection "Entry Summary" CBP 7501 form (with a stamp)
    • Your valid driver’s license or ID

    If the vehicle wasn’t manufactured for sale in the U.S., you will also need to provide the following with a statement of compliance or waiver from each agency:

    • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) form HS 7 
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) form 3520-1

    U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection Entry Summary (CPB-7501) 

Selling a vehicle (Choose a tab below)

When you trade-in your vehicle as part of the sale for a new or used vehicle at a dealership, the dealership will assess the value of your vehicle based on it condition. The price offered for it will be used to offset the price of the vehicle you are planning to purchase.

You can’t trade in your vehicle if there is a lien on your title. You will need a statement from the lienholder stating that the loan has been paid in full.
Before leaving the dealership, remember to remove the license plate from your old vehicle. If you decide to transfer your plate from your old vehicle to your new one, the dealer will complete the paperwork to register and title the vehicle and collect the necessary fees.

If you are selling a vehicle in a private sale or to a relative, you are responsible for the following:

  • Provide the original title to the buyer: If you can’t find the original title, you should apply for a duplicate online or at a Secretary of State office.
  • Complete your part on the title assignment: Before selling the vehicle, complete the seller’s section, including the vehicle mileage, selling date, selling price, and your signature.

    If there is more than one owner named on the front of the title, all owners must sign before the title can be transferred.

  • Check if any liens (such as bank loans) against the vehicle that are noted on the title: If there is a lien, it must be released by the lienholder in the appropriate signature space. You also may attach a lien termination statement from the financial institution to the title.
  • Transfer the title: To transfer the title, the buyer must provide their name, address, and signature in the buyer's section on the title and transfer ownership at a Secretary of State office.

    It is best if you accompany the buyer to the Secretary of State office to complete the title transfer. If you can’t accompany the buyer, keep a copy of the title and record of the sale for at least 18 months.

    Under Michigan law, you, as the seller, are not liable for any damages or a violation of the law if the title isn’t transferred and you have maintained proof of the sale.

  • Remove your license plate: Unless you’re transferring your license plate to an immediate family member, you must remove it from your vehicle during the sale.

Schedule an office visit

Duplicate title  

If you are selling your vehicle to salvage or scrap, your insurance company will determine the amount of damage to the vehicle.

Salvage Titles

A regular title will be replaced with a salvage title if your vehicle has become a "distressed vehicle.” A vehicle with a salvage title can’t be used on public roads until it is recertified by a specially trained police officer and retitled. 

Scrap 

A regular title will be replaced with a scrap title if your vehicle has one or more major component parts that have been wrecked, destroyed, damaged, stolen, or missing to the extent that the total estimated cost of repair is 91 percent or more of its pre-damaged value.  

Scrap vehicles cannot be re-titled or returned to the road using their existing vehicle identification number.

Information about titles

Leasing a vehicle 

When you lease a vehicle, make sure all the terms of the lease are in writing, that you understand the terms of the lease and that you agree with the terms. Leasing may involve additional costs for excess mileage, early termination, or excess wear and tear.

  • When leasing a vehicle, you have the right to:

    • Use it for an agreed-upon number of months and miles
    • Turn it in at lease end, pay any end-of-lease fees and charges, and "walk away"
    • Buy the vehicle if you have a purchase option
    • Take advantage of any warranties, recalls, or other services that apply to the vehicle

    While leasing the vehicle, you may be responsible for:

    • Excess mileage charges when you return the vehicle: Your lease agreement will tell you how many miles you can drive before you must pay for extra miles and how much the per-mile charge will be.
    • Excess wear charges when you return the vehicle: The standards for excess wear, such as for body damage or worn tires, are in your lease agreement.
    • Substantial payments if you end the lease early: The earlier you end the lease, the greater these charges are likely to be.

    Consumer’s Guide to Vehicle Leasing 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • It is strongly recommended that you visit a Secretary of State office immediately after purchasing a vehicle in a private sale. However, per state law, you have 15 days to transfer the title after the date of the sale. A $15 late fee will be assessed if you transfer the vehicle title more than 15 days after the sale. 

    Additionally, in Michigan, you don’t need a license plate to drive a newly purchased vehicle directly home within three days of purchase. 

    Until you register your vehicle, keep the assigned title from the seller and proof of insurance with you whenever you’re driving. Don’t use a plate from another vehicle to drive a new vehicle home.

    Schedule an office visit

  • A $15 title transfer fee is due at the time of transferring vehicle ownership. Unless already collected by a dealership, 6% sales tax will be due at the time of transferring the title. 

    An additional $15 late fee is assessed if you transfer the vehicle title more than 15 days after its sale. 

    Title transfer and vehicle registration 

  • Before you buy a vehicle, check to make sure the title has been properly completed by the seller. 

    If the title is an orange color and shows "this vehicle was previously issued a salvage title,” the vehicle was previously issued a salvage title, probably due to vehicle damage. You are entitled to a salvage disclosure form from the dealer if the vehicle is under 8,000 pounds and less than six model years old, or over 8,000 pounds and less than 16 model years old.

    When your title arrives in the mail, make sure that your information is correct. 

    Before selling a vehicle, be sure to complete the seller’s portion and include your signature in the appropriate space. It is required that you check the vehicle mileage and report an accurate odometer reading. 

  • Personal information in driving and vehicle records is protected under The Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). It is a federal law designed to protect the personal information of licensed drivers from improper use or disclosure.

    Under DPPA, all states are required to safeguard personal information in driving and vehicle records. Care must be taken in how the information for these requests are submitted because the records are retrieved by exactly matching the names and addresses as they were provided.

    If you don’t have permission to access personal information in a record, it will be redacted or concealed in any records you do request.

  • To receive information about vehicle owners or vehicle registration and title histories, you must meet the requirements under the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and have a valid, permissible purpose to request the record information.

    The following reasons are permissible reasons to obtain driver and vehicle information:

    • For use by a federal, state, or local governmental agency, including a court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out the agency’s functions, or by a private person or entity acting on behalf of a government agency in carrying out the agency’s functions.
    • For use in connection with matters of motor vehicle, watercraft, snowmobile, or off-road recreational vehicle (ORV) and driver or operator safety or auto, watercraft, snowmobile, or ORV theft; motor vehicle, watercraft, snowmobile, or ORV emissions; motor vehicle, watercraft, snowmobile, or ORV product alterations, recalls, or advisories; performance monitoring of motor vehicles, watercraft, snowmobiles, or ORVs; motor vehicle, watercraft, snowmobile, or ORV market research activities, including survey research; and the removal of nonowner records from the original records of motor vehicle, watercraft, snowmobile, or ORV manufacturers.
    • For use in the normal course of business by a legitimate business, including the agents, employees, and contractors of the business, but only to verify the accuracy of personal information submitted by an individual to the business or its agents, employees, contractors, and if the information as so submitted is no longer correct, to obtain the correct information, for the sole purpose of preventing fraud by pursuing legal remedies against, or recovering a debt against, the individual.
    • For use in connection with a civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitration proceeding in a federal, state, or local court or governmental agency or before a self-regulatory body, including use for service of process, investigation in anticipation of litigation, and the execution of enforcement of judgments and orders, or pursuant to an order of a federal, state, or local court, an administrative agency, or a self-regulatory body.
    • For use in legitimate research activities and in preparing statistical reports for commercial, scholarly, or academic purposes by a bona fide research organization, if the personal information is not published, re-disclosed, or used to contact individuals.
    • For use by an insurer or insurance support organization, or by a self-insured entity, or its agents, employees, or contractors, in connection with claims investigating activity, antifraud activity, rating, or underwriting.
    • For use in providing notice to the owner of an abandoned, towed, or impounded vehicle, watercraft, snowmobile, or ORV.
    • For use either by a private detective or private investigator licensed under the Private Detective License Act of 1965, as amended (1965 PA 285; MCL 338.821 to 338.851), or by a private security guard agency or alarm system contractor licensed under the Private Security Guard Act of 1968, as amended (1968 PA 330; MCL 338.1051 to 338.1085), only for another permissible purpose listed here.
    • For use by an employer, or the employer's agent or insurer, to obtain or verify information relating either to the holder of a commercial driver's license that is required under federal law or to the holder of a chauffeur's license that is required under Chapter 3 of the Michigan Vehicle Code.
    • For use by a watercraft, snowmobile, ORV, or car rental business, or its employees, agents, contractors, or service firms, for the purpose of making rental decisions.
    • For use in connection with the operation of private toll transportation facilities.
    • For use by a news medium in the preparation and dissemination of a report related in part or in whole to the operation of a motor vehicle or public safety.
    • For any use by an individual requesting information pertaining to himself or herself or requesting in writing that the Secretary of State provide information pertaining to himself or herself to the individual's designee. A request for disclosure to a designee, however, may be submitted only by the individual.

    DPPA also makes it illegal to obtain record information for unlawful purposes or to make false representations in order to obtain such information.

    Vehicle record

    Business and agency records