If you’re planning to buy a used car in Montana, you won't have to worry about paying sales tax on your purchase. Montana is one of the five states without a statewide sales tax on motor vehicle purchases.

Quick links:

Are there exceptions to the Montana sales tax?

What fees do I owe when buying a used car?

Is there sales tax in neighboring states?

Is it better to go to a dealer?

The Treasure State lets you off the hook for sales tax, but you still need to pay the fees involved with registering and titling the car. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of Montana license plates as well.

We're about to spill the tea on everything you need to know about buying a car from a private seller in sales tax-free Montana, and you want to be here for it.

Do You Pay Taxes When Purchasing a Vehicle From a Private Seller in Montana?

When buying a car in Montana, whether it’s from a private party or a car dealer, you don’t owe sales tax. Where other states rely on sales tax to fund infrastructure and programs, Montana funds these from personal income tax and property tax. As a result, Montana residents pay a higher income tax of up to 6.75% and a personal property tax of 0.740% of the assessed home value.

Like in other states, you’ll still have to pay vehicle registration, license, and car title fees after buying a used car in Montana.

Montana Registration, Title, and License Fees

Aside from your car’s purchase price, you have to factor in registration, title transfer, and license plate fees.

Montana Vehicle Title Fees

The cost of a Montana title transfer is $12, while a salvage title will cost you $18.50. Title transfers are done in-person at the Motor Vehicle Office of the County Treasurer in your county.

The late title transfer fees are calculated based on the duration of the delay. If you go over 61 days from the date of your car purchase and you haven't transferred your vehicle's title, you'll start piling on penalties.

Here's the late fee breakdown:

  1. If you complete the transfer between 61 and 180 days, you'll be charged a late fee of $10 per month, with a maximum of $60.
  2. If you are 181 and 360 days late, the fee jumps up to $20 per month, with a maximum of $120.
  3. If you’re 360 days late, hold on tight. The late fee for this extended period is $30 per month, with a maximum of $180.

Here’s what you’ll need to transfer a title in Montana:

  1. A bill of sale (Form MV24)
  2. Proof of a lien release (if applicable)
  3. A completed application for certificate of title for a motor vehicle (Form MV1)
  4. Payment for the titling fee: $12

Montana Car Registration Fees

The registration fee in Montana depends on the vehicle’s weight and age.

Fees on top of increasing coin stacks

Light vehicles, buses, and trucks under one ton will be susceptible to the following registration fees:

  • 0-4 years: $217
  • 5-10 years: $87
  • 11+ years: $28
  • 11+ years: $87.50 (permanent registration)

Before registering new cars, you have to transfer the title to your name.

Montana License Plate Fees

Standard Montana plates cost $10.30. If you’re applying for new license plates, you will go to your local county treasurer's office.

Montana law requires new license plates to be issued every five years.

Car owners who have permanently registered their car can continue to use the plates issued to them at the time they registered their vehicle. Vehicle owners who wish to use the 2010-issue plate can request the new plates upon surrender of their old plates displaying the permanent tab and payment of one or more of the following:

  • $10.30 new issue fee
  • $10.30 replacement plate fee
  • $15.45 duplicate plate fee
  • $10.30 duplicate permanent tab fee

The state of Montana requires cars to have a rear plate only. While other states only require rear license plate, some states require front license plates in addition to rear plates.

Montana vs Neighboring States

If you’re buying a vehicle in Montana, consider yourself lucky: the state levies no sales tax on used or new vehicle purchases. Nevada has the highest sales tax rate on car purchases at 8.25%—if you’re buying from a dealer (Nevada does not levy sales tax on private car sales, interestingly enough). California has the highest car sales tax after Nevada, with a whopping average of 7.5%.

If you take a look at the states bordering Montana, you’ll see that the sales tax on vehicle purchases in Idaho is 6%; in Washington, it’s 6.5%; and in Wyoming, it's 4%. These states also impose local (city, county, or both) taxes, resulting in a significantly higher total sales tax on motor vehicles.  

If you want to buy a car out of state and immediately register it in Montana, you should be subject to Montana sales taxes—which are zero.

Here’s our handy used car sales tax calculator to help you with those pesky sales tax calculations.

Is Buying a Car from a Dealer Better?

Many people believe that buying from a car dealer is a great way to avoid hassle and save money. In fact, going to a dealer ends up costing you more money.

When you buy a car from a dealership, you pay the same fees as if you bought it from a private seller. Car dealers have a way of burying everything in fine print, but the fees are still there.

More importantly, you can pretty much count on paying more at a dealership than you would from a private seller for the same used car. To turn a profit, dealers are known for "buying low and selling high." By doing business directly with one another on PrivateAuto, you can save money by skipping the middleman.

Additionally, dealerships charge a "documentation fee" above and beyond all the other taxes and fees you have to pay. The average documentation fee in the state of Montana is $299, with a state limit of $350.

PrivateAuto fills the gap left by traditional car dealerships by connecting buyers directly with private sellers. Our platform provides a dealer-like experience while allowing you to buy or sell from regular people without paying ungodly fees.

Get lower prices when you shop for used cars right here on PrivateAuto.

Buy and Sell Used Cars on PrivateAuto

Conduct private car transactions easily and safely with PrivateAuto. Our transactional marketplace gives buyers and sellers all the tools to complete the deal, from in-app financing to secure messaging to integrated payments.

We allow you to negotiate the price you want, schedule test drive meetups, and pay for the car—all within our handy app without putting out your personal information.

Whether you want to buy a vehicle or are trying to sell your used car for top dollar, PrivateAuto will help you get the deal done.

Sell your car privately with PrivateAuto

Get started with PrivateAuto today.

Here’s how you can sell your car in Montana with a few simple steps:

  1. Gather necessary documentation
  2. Register on PrivateAuto and get verified
  3. List your car
  4. Set your terms
  5. Vet incoming offers
  6. Choose a buyer
  7. Schedule a meeting
  8. E-sign documents
  9. Get paid, instantly
  10. Transfer the title

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I get taxed in Montana if I buy an out-of-state vehicle?

If you’re a Montana resident and you buy a used car in South Dakota, you do not pay South Dakota sales tax. You’ll pay Montana sales tax, which, since it’s nonexistent on vehicle purchases, is to say you won’t pay sales tax. Sales tax in South Dakota does not apply to sales of motor vehicles to nonresidents that will use the vehicle out of state.

Does Montana require emissions testing?

Montana doesn't require emissions testing for vehicles. Even though drivers in Montana aren't required to pass a smog check, they can still get a vehicle emissions test done if they want to.

Is auto insurance mandatory in Montana?

When it comes to driving in Montana, auto insurance is not just a good idea; it's the law. The state requires drivers to have valid and sufficient insurance coverage to protect themselves and others in the event of a car accident.

Insurance premiums in Montana can vary depending on a number of factors, including your driving history, age, and the type of vehicle you own. If you are involved in a car accident, having insurance coverage can help cover medical expenses, property damage, and other costs associated with the accident.

Here is the minimal insurance cost every vehicle owner must have:

  • Bodily injury: $25,000 per person
  • Per accident: $50,000
  • Property damage: $20,000 per accident
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorist: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident

Why do Utahns register vehicles in Montana?

There are several reasons why Utah residents might choose to register their vehicles in Montana and save thousands of dollars.

  1. Favorable registration fees: compared to Utah, Montana may have lower registration fees or different fee structures. Individuals who register their vehicles in Montana may be able to benefit from potentially lower registration costs.
  2. No sales tax: because Montana does not have a general sales tax, individuals who register their vehicles there may avoid paying sales tax on the purchase. This can result in cost savings, especially for high-priced vehicles.
  3. Privacy and confidentiality: because Montana allows the use of a registered agent for vehicle registration, some individuals may register their vehicles in Montana to maintain privacy and confidentiality. This means that personal information associated with the vehicle may not be available to the general public.
  4. No emissions requirements: Montana does not have a mandatory emissions testing program for vehicles. Individuals with vehicles that may not meet Utah's emissions requirements opt to register their vehicles in Montana to avoid such testing.

While Utahns save thousands of dollars by doing this, intentionally registering a vehicle in another state for the purpose of avoiding sales tax or fees is not legal. Vehicle registration should generally take place in the state where the vehicle is primarily used and where the owner resides.

While avoiding sales tax by registering your vehicle in another state is illegal, the details of your situation matter. Talk to an attorney to decide if registering your vehicle in Montana is right for you.

Can anyone hire a Montana registered agent?

Yes, regardless of whether they live in Montana or are associated with a business entity in the state, anyone can hire a Montana registered agent. Hiring a Montana registered agent can be especially beneficial for individuals or businesses that are not physically located in Montana but are required by law to maintain a registered agent presence in the state.

How to buy a used car in Montana?

Here are the necessary steps you should follow when buying a used car from a private party in Montana:

  1. Find a car you like. It's better to buy from a private owner than from a car dealer in Montana because cutting out the middleman is usually a great way to save some cash.
  2. Set a price with the seller.
  3. Arrange a meeting with the seller. Setting up the first meeting means trading personal information and having a lot of back-and-forth between the buyer and the seller. PrivateAuto is the best app for buying and selling cars because it offers a safe way to meet the seller without giving out personal information.
  4. Plan a test drive. When you find the perfect used car and agree on a price, it's time to take the car for a test drive.
  5. Handle the paperwork. By this, we mean prepare the vehicle title, odometer disclosure, Montana bill of sale, and check the VIN number.
  6. Pay the seller. Did we mention our ground-breaking PrivateAuto Pay gateway? It allows you to send money right away, no matter the amount and time of day. We don’t care about after hours, weekends, or national holidays. And we don't charge a fee to process payments.
  7. Have the seller transfer vehicle ownership. This is the most important step. Once the seller signs the title and hands it over to you, the vehicle is all yours. (You still need to register it and pay the car tax, but technically, the vehicle is yours.)
  8. Register the car in your name and pay sales taxes and additional fees.
  9. Get new license plates.

Is there a local tax in Montana?

Montana does not have a state sales tax, and their tax laws don't impose local sales taxes either. Montana's tax system ranks 5th overall on the 2023 State Business Tax Climate Index.

Is Montana the only state without sales tax?

There are five U.S. states without a vehicle sales tax:

  1. Alaska
  2. Oregon
  3. Montana
  4. Delaware
  5. New Hampshire

Is Montana a tax-friendly state?

The word Tax enlarged on a handheld calculator

Montana is a moderately tax-friendly state for retirees. Social Security income is partially taxed. Retirement account withdrawals are fully taxed. Wages are taxed at standard tax rates, with a marginal state tax rate of 6.75%.

Does the car price affect how much sales tax I have to pay?

In states that charge vehicle sales tax, the car price does affect the total tax owed because sales taxes are calculated on the purchase price of the vehicle. Because of Montana's lack of a sales tax on car purchases, you will not spend any money on sales tax, regardless of the price of the car.

Additional Reading

How to Change License Plates?

How to Buy a Car Remotely?

Are Used Car Prices Falling in 2023?

Can I Transfer a Vehicle Title Online?

How Long Can You Finance a Used Car?

Vehicle Transport Guide