What Documents Do I Need to Purchase a Vehicle?

stack of documents to bring to car dealership

So you’re gearing up to purchase a vehicle and have been cruising down your list of car-buying to-dos. You’ve set a budget, narrowed down your options, and now you’re ready to take your soon-to-be ride for a test spin and, hopefully, off the lot.

But before you rush to sign the dotted line, pump your brakes. While buying a car is exciting, it requires a ton of paperwork that can slow the process down if you aren’t prepared.

Here are six items you should bring with you to the dealership.

A form of payment

Of course, you can’t buy a car without most likely being required to make some form of payment. Payment can be a preapproved loan check from a bank or credit union. If you’re getting vehicle financing through the dealership, the down payment can be in the form of a cashier's check or personal check.

Driver’s license

The driver’s license serves two purposes: to prove you are a legally registered driver (since you’ll be driving the car off the lot, of course) and to serve as identification for your check or form of payment.

Proof of income

When you purchase a car with vehicle financing, providing proof of income is a must. Why? Because auto lenders want to verify that you have a steady income to pay back the car loan or auto financing over time. So before you head to the dealership, make sure you bring a paystub or bank statement.

Proof of residence

You will also need to provide proof of residence to ensure that the monthly bills you receive will be sent to the address you provided in the paperwork. You can bring various forms of documentation, including a recent utility bill or your home’s lease or mortgage agreement.

Proof of insurance

Before you are able to drive your new car off the dealership lot, you must have coverage. If you already have insurance set up, showing a valid proof of auto insurance card will suffice. If you did not set up insurance ahead of time, you can call from the dealership and give your insurance company the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car you are purchasing, and your insurer will either email or fax over your proof of insurance to the dealership.

Title and current vehicle registration for trade-in

If you are trading in a vehicle, you will need to provide the car’s title to show that you are the owner. If there is a co-signer or a lien against the title, you should get the required signature necessary to discharge the lien ahead of time. You will also need to provide a copy of your current vehicle registration, so make sure that it is up to date before you trade in your vehicle.

If you are in the market to purchase a vehicle and need help getting approved for financing due to having bad credit or no credit, a car dealer enrolled in the Credit Acceptance program can help. All you have to do is fill out the Start Your Credit Approval form on our website to get started!