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Vehicle Ownership

Consider carefully whether to buy a car during your time in the United States. Owning a care is an additional expense due to necessary requirements and possible repairs. If you own a car, you must maintain current:

Additional expenses include fuel, maintenance, and parking fees.

Buying a Car

There are two common ways to buy a car: through a dealership (new or used) or a private owner (used).

A new car is less likely to have mechanical problems and many come with an initial warranty for certain repairs. New vehicles, however, are expensive and lose a lot of resale value during the first year, which means a considerable loss on your purchase if you planned to sell it again within the first few years.

For many, purchasing a used car is more economical, but do thorough research and make sure it is in good condition first. See our tips and considerations handout for buying a used car.

Remember to:

  • Get information about the car, including its market value from Kelley Blue Book, availability in your area from Edmunds, and vehicle history reports from CarFax.
  • Get a written receipt, especially for a used car, which is required for registering the car in your name and paying sales tax at the DMV.
  • Obtain the original title, a legal document showing proof of ownership. Make sure there are no liens listed on the title, which means the owner still owes money on the car and is not able to sell it to you directly.

Do not pay any money until you have obtained the title and the seller has signed ownership over to you. If the owner does not have the title, then be suspicious that the vehicle is not legally for sale.

If you purchased a car based on false information or suspect that certain facts were withheld during the transaction, New York State has established laws to protect new and used car buyers. The Lemon Law provides a legal remedy for buyers or lessees who have purchased a car that turns out to have more problems than usual.

Vehicle Registration

To register a car in New York, you need to submit the appropriate documents and pay the necessary fees at a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. See the DMV Registration Instructions page for details about the registration application, required documentation, fees, and more.

Car Insurance

All vehicles in New York State must meet the DMV’s minimum insurance requirements, even if the car is not being driven. Additionally, the insurance policy must be held by the same person listed on the vehicle’s registration.

There are many insurance companies to choose from, so shop around for competitive rates. However, if you do not have a Social Security Number or New York State driver’s license, you may find fewer insurance options or higher premium rates, depending on the company.

Beyond the minimum requirements, you may purchase insurance for higher amounts or additional coverage that suit your needs. As a general rule, “you get what you pay for.” In other words, if your insurance premiums are low, your benefits will probably not cover much in case of an accident or injury.

Driver training and education courses are available through AAA.