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Do Dealerships Register Cars for You? [and How Long It Can Take]

The car buying process is an exciting time until you get to the paperwork. One of the boring, yet necessary, paperwork is the car's registration. Is that for you to take care of, or does the dealership handle that for you?

We researched this topic so you will know what to expect upon purchasing your new car. 

Couple standing face to face in showroom, Do Dealerships Register Cars for You? [and How Long It Can Take]

In certain states, the dealership will issue you a temporary registration; you'll have to get the real one on your terms. In other states, the registration is covered in the total sale price.

However, you don't have to worry about getting a title or being afraid of driving illegally.

Continue reading to understand better the procedure of receiving your new car's registration.

Does The Dealership Take Care of License Plates?

You will not receive your official license plates right after purchase. Once all the payments and paperwork are taken care of, you'll receive a temporary license plate.

Old car license plates displayed on a wall

Some of that paperwork will be sent to the DMV to get you your official license plates. After one to three weeks pass, you'll receive the official license plates in the mail. 

In some states, you'll receive all the necessities right after the paperwork is finished. Regardless of where you live, your car will be entirely in your name within 30 days.

Does The Car Dealership Give You the Title?

Salesman at the dealership talking to a family buying a car

As mentioned before, much of the paperwork will be sent to the DMV. Part of it includes the car title. You won't receive the title immediately after the purchase. You'll need to wait for it to process, then receive it in the mail.

According to It Still Runs, expect a maximum of 20 days for the title to process.

Before you leave the dealership, receive a copy of the title application (and registration receipt). That way, if you get pulled over, you'll have some kind of proof that you're the owner of the vehicle.

For added documentation, have car insurance already prepared right before hitting the road.

If you finance your new car, getting a title will be a much different process. We will cover this more in a later section.

How Long Does a Car Dealership Have to Give You a Title?

Successful deal in a car showroom

Since the title is part of the paperwork that gets forwarded to a DMV, the dealership won't directly give you the title. However, they do have a window of when that needs to be situated.

If you don't receive the documents you need within three weeks, call the DMV and the dealership to figure out what the hold up is.

The above only applies to the purchase of a brand new car paid in cash.

If you bought a used car, you should be walking out the door with the official title in your hand. It'll have the dealership's signature and yours signifying that you now own the vehicle.

Even more, you should inspect the title before making the purchase; it could have a vehicle history that makes the value more or less than what you're paying for. 

How Long Does it Take for a Dealer to Send My Tag and Title?

You should have all that you need in your hands within 30 days after you have made the purchase. However, you may not receive it from the dealer. You might obtain it directly from the DMV.

Nonetheless, if you didn't receive it in those 30 days, call the dealership from which you purchased the car. Also, make sure they have the correct address on file; incorrect address information could have your documents shipped somewhere else. 

As a just-in-case option, you can contact the DMV and let them know you haven't received the official tags. They'll provide extended temporary tags until your situation is taken care of. 

What Happens if a Previous Owner Won't Give the Car Title?

We strongly advise that whenever you buy a used car, you sign the title in your name immediately before the purchase. Some sellers will give a reason why they won't give you the title, but that's not important. 

Keep frequent contact with the seller, urging them to give it to you. If that doesn't work, My Attorney Home suggests that you file a civil case in small claims court. The case will be in your favor so long as you have the car and proof of its purchase.

Don't feel bad if you got the car without the title; it has happened to people before. Legally, the odds are in your favor, so stay positive.

Do You get a Car Title When You Finance?

Financing a car means going through a noticeably different process than buying the car upfront. 

When you pay with cash (or payment plan), the paperwork you fill out will be to put everything in your name. But when you finance a car, only some of the documents are in your name. The title is not one of them.

Financing (or leasing) a car means that your bank or lender possesses the title in many states. Because you are in the lender's/bank's debt, they will own the title until you pay off the loan or car in full, according to Car and Driver.

Afterward, the title is yours to keep or to use in selling the vehicle.

If you decide to finance a vehicle, make sure your credit is decent enough and that you can afford to. Having a good understanding of car loans will help avoid financial setbacks. Check out our list of items to bring before getting a car to better prepare yourself.

How Long Does it Take to Get Your Registration After Buying a Car?

Young man driving car

In some states, you'd likely walk out the door with at least a temporary registration after the purchase. Sometimes you'll leave with a legitimate registration in your hands. 

In other cases, it's around the same wait time as all the other items you need to drive legally (three weeks). 

Should you have to do the registration in person at the DMV, you'll need the following items:

  • Car title
  • Money to pay the sales tax
  • Bill of sale
  • Odometer reading
  • Proof of insurance
  • ID

If you have all of the above, go to the DMV and fill out a form for registration, pay the necessary fees, and walk away with the registration in your name.

How Long Can You Drive a New Car Without Registration?

That temporary license plate, title, and registration is a placeholder until you retrieve the real ones. Each state has its laws and rules regarding the time frame allotted to use a temporary registration.

Generally, you can drive from the dealer or seller to wherever the car will be parked without worrying about getting fined. 

The temporary registrations and tags should have an expiration date to where it won't be valid anymore. If you're in a state that you have to retrieve the official documents yourself, we advise you to do that almost right after the vehicle purchase, if possible.  


All the information you'll need to get your car registered has been provided. We hope you make good use of this knowledge. Feel free to check out our article about the next steps after buying a car.