What To Do After You Buy A Used Car Privately In Texas

Whether you’re shaking hands, sending a text or negotiating over the phone, there’s nothing quite like that moment when you’ve just struck a deal for your dream vehicle. After all that searching, test driving and negotiating, there are still some important steps to take after you buy a used car. Follow this helpful guide to avoid fraud and protect your investment as you get ready for that first road trip in Texas.

Transfer the Title After You Buy a Used Car

This process is handled safely and legally by most used car dealers, so you may not need to follow every step. You will, however, want to be sure you and a private seller follow all of these steps after you buy a used car. In Texas, you have 30 days after the date of sale to transfer the title.

Perform a Title Check

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles or TxDMV, suggests you perform a title check before signing any vehicle title or agreeing to the transfer. This check can be performed by your county tax office or online and it verifies whether there are any issues with the title.

This check will show if the vehicle has a salvage title or if there are any ongoing legal issues over the document. This check can save you a lot of time and stress and give you peace of mind that the history of the vehicle is free from issues.
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Submit the Correct Documents

After performing the title check, it’s time to turn in the application. TxDMV requires you to gather the following documents from the seller:

The signed vehicle title
Required supporting documents, such as power of attorney or release of lien.
You will also need to pay the fees required for a title transfer. The current fee in Texas for a used car purchased from a private individual is a 6.25 percent motor vehicle sales tax on the purchase price or presumptive value.
What To Do After You Buy A Used Car Privately In Texas

Wait for the Title To Be Processed

Title transfers take at least 20 business days to process in Texas. The new title will typically be mailed within 30 days to either you or the lienholder of your used vehicle. Reach out to your local TxDMV if you haven’t received a title after 30 business days.

Get Insurance Before You Drive

Insurance isn’t just a great idea for your vehicle, it’s required under Texas law. Failure to provide proof of auto insurance can lead to expensive fines and other penalties. Explore your auto insurance options to see if you want minimum coverage or comprehensive coverage after you buy a used car.

Required Auto Insurance in Texas

There are many coverage options available to protect your investment. Texas law, however, only requires you to have minimum coverage that’s known as 30/60/25 coverage:

$30,000 for bodily injury liability per person
$60,000 for total bodily injury liability
$25,000 for property damage per accident
Texas is considered a fault state, which means the driver who is at fault is required to pay for accidents. This includes injuries and property damage.

You can increase any of these coverage limits to protect yourself from costly medical bills or property damage liability, but these three levels are all you’re legally required to get if you’re looking for the most budget-friendly insurance policy.
What To Do After You Buy A Used Car Privately In Texas

Additional Coverage Options

There are many risks and additional expenses that could occur if you’re found to be at fault in an auto accident. Consider upgrading your coverage for more peace of mind and financial protection. Here are some basic coverage options you can add to your auto insurance policy:

Collision: Basic coverage doesn’t offer any assistance in repairing your vehicle after an accident. Collision coverage can help you afford to repair or even replace your vehicle.
Comprehensive: Collision coverage only works if you’re behind the wheel. For damages done to your car while it’s parked, you need comprehensive coverage.
Additional liability: Basic 30/60/25 coverage may not be enough for serious injuries or other damages. Some drivers increase their liability coverage for financial protection in serious collisions.
Personal injury protection: Cover your medical bills, lost wages and other costs incurred after an accident.
Medical payments: Add another layer of medical coverage to protect you in situations like injuries while riding a bike or riding in someone else’s car.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist: Consider insurance to cover you even in events where you aren’t at fault. An underinsured or uninsured driver may not be able to pay for your medical bills.
Rental reimbursement: This policy feature reimburses you for rental car costs while your vehicle is in the shop or if it’s stolen.
Towing and labor: Towing, flat tire repair and jump-starting services can all be costly, so consider adding this coverage option to your policy.
What’s the best coverage option? That depends on the value of your vehicle, your driving habits and your budget. Additional coverage adds to your monthly premium but it also offers peace of mind and reduces the risk of a major expense.

Factors That Affect Your Auto Insurance Rate

Whether you shop for basic coverage or maximum protection for your used vehicle, many factors affect your insurance rates. Consider which factors are most affecting your rates and see if there are any steps you can take to lower your policy rates:

Insurance deductible
Level of coverage
Make, model, trim level, safety features and engine size of your car
Your driving habits and experience
Your history of coverage and accidents
Your location, age, marital status, gender and credit score
Take your time and shop around to find the best rates for the coverage you want after you buy a used car. Some factors you can’t easily change, but others you can. For example, adding safety features to your vehicle or increasing your deductible may be worthwhile steps to lower your rate.

Request an Inspection for Peace of Mind

Even if you’ve carefully researched the make, model and year of used vehicle you’re purchasing, it still pays to perform a careful inspection of the specific car you’re buying.

Emissions testing is required in 17 counties in Texas, but other types of inspections are recommended before or after you buy a used car. Safety inspections are required throughout the state and must be performed every year.
What To Do After You Buy A Used Car Privately In Texas

Emissions Testing

The Texas Department of Public Safety lists 17 counties in the state that require annual emissions inspections. These inspections ensure the catalytic converter and other emissions components are working correctly. Failing an emissions test can prevent you from legally driving your vehicle.

Check with your local emissions inspector to see if your vehicle requires annual testing. Some vehicles are exempt from these yearly tests.

Areas to Inspect

It’s a good idea to inspect your vehicle beyond the basic required safety inspection. Whether you’re paying for a budget car or a used sports car, be sure you know what you’re purchasing and if there are any serious maintenance or repair issues.

A vehicle has so many high-wear parts and maintenance tasks that it’s best to ask a qualified and experienced mechanic to inspect your vehicle for you. Before you invest in a professional vehicle inspection, consider inspecting these areas for yourself:

Body and paint
Windshield and other glass components
Suspension system
Seats, dashboard and other interior components
Check engine light and other warning lights
Hoses and belts
You don’t have to be a professional mechanic to notice major red flags. Use your eyes, ears and nose to be alert for any concerns. Listen for unusual sounds while the vehicle is running, unpleasant odors that could point to water damage and excessive wear or rust.

Pre-Purchase Inspections

It’s much less stressful to discover these issues before you make your purchase. While you can’t go back in time after you buy a used car, consider scheduling a pre-purchase inspection if it’s not too late.

A participating mechanic in your area will carefully look over the vehicle and note any signs of wear, maintenance issues or severe mechanical problems. This type of inspection isn’t a guarantee that your vehicle is in pristine condition but it can help you avoid purchasing a lemon.

Register Your Used Vehicle in Texas

The registration process occurs at the same time as the title transfer process. After you buy a used car and fill out the title application, you’ll also register the car in your name. Registering a vehicle in Texas requires you to bring a few documents and pay a fee at your county tax office.

Required Documents

You must gather these items and bring them to your county tax office within 30 days of your purchase:

Registration application: Pick up a registration application form and fill it out to turn in during the registration process.
Driver’s license: Be sure you have a valid Texas driver’s license on hand.
Evidence of loan payment: If the used vehicle you’re buying has a loan taken out for it, then you’ll need to provide a release of lien form.
Proof of auto insurance: Start an auto insurance policy with at least minimum coverage and bring your policy information with you to the county tax office.
Proof of current inspection: If safety and/or emissions tests are required for your vehicle, then you’ll need to bring in these documents.


Registering a vehicle requires you to pay a fee. The exact fee amount depends on your county and your vehicle. Different counties in Texas also accept different payment methods. Reach out to your tax office before your scheduled appointment to verify you have the correct payment option for registration fees.
What To Do After You Buy A Used Car Privately In Texas

Registration Renewal

The initial registration process must happen in person at a tax office. You can, however, renew your registration in several ways once your vehicle is registered in your name. Here are your options for registration renewal in Texas:

Online renewal
Mail-on renewal
Mobile application renewal
In-person renewal

Contact a Mechanic for Any Needed Repairs

Known mechanical issues aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Once you’ve had your vehicle inspected and you know there are issues with it, you can use this information to reduce the asking price of the vehicle. Request an estimate on any needed repairs before you make the purchase.

Be sure to take your new purchase with known mechanical issues to a mechanic promptly after you buy a used car. Avoid driving long distances until you have any major or minor issues solved. Review the most common repairs and some red-flag problems that are usually costly to repair.

Common Repairs

All vehicles have several high-wear components that need to be replaced or maintained on yearly or even monthly schedules. These are some of the most common repairs that may need to be performed on a used vehicle:

Oil and oil filter change
Tire rotation and replacement
Brake pad and other component replacement
Battery replacement
Windshield wiper replacement
Catalytic converter replacement
Oxygen sensor replacement
These repairs don’t usually represent a major expense. Some are even tasks you can consider performing yourself. Don’t attempt to take on an automotive repair without the right experience, tools and safety gear.

Costly Automotive Issues

Some repairs may rival the cost of the used vehicle. These expensive could represent serious underlying issues with the vehicle you’re about to purchase or have already purchased. These significant issues cost several thousand or more to repair in most vehicles:

Head gasket
Brake lines
Engine rebuild
Transmission rebuild or replacement
Frame issues
Full suspension system
Hybrid car battery
Just because a repair costs a few thousand dollars doesn’t mean it isn’t worth performing. Consider the value of your vehicle, cost of repair and other factors as you weigh your options.
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Create a Maintenance Plan After You Buy a Used Car

Preventative maintenance is far more affordable than serious automotive repairs. Don’t wait until your ride becomes worn down and unsafe but create a maintenance plan soon after you buy a used car.

Maintenance Checklist

Create a schedule that includes all the necessary maintenance tasks on your vehicle. Whether you roll up your sleeves and change your oil or take your ride into a trusted mechanic, these tasks need to be performed periodically to prevent extended damage and unsafe driving conditions:

Change the oil: An oil change is one of the most common auto maintenance tasks. Most vehicles can go farther than the old recommendation of 3,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual for the specific oil weight, filter type and timing of oil change.
Check other fluids: Oil isn’t the only fluid that keeps your car running. Inspect the reservoirs for coolant, brake, power steering and transmission fluid to ensure they’re full and uncontaminated.
Check the tire pressure: Low tire pressure can result in a flat tire or excessive tire wear. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended pressure and periodically check your tires.
Test the lights: A burnt-out light bulb is a safety concern. Keep your vehicle visible by periodically checking bulbs and replacing any that aren’t working.
Check the windshield wipers: Most windshield wipers need to be replaced after six months to one year of use. Be sure to pick up the right length and attachment style or ask a trusted mechanic to replace these items.
Check the air filters: Your car’s engine compartment and cabin use air filters to trap dirt and debris. These need to be checked at least once a year and replaced as needed.
Inspect the brakes: Brake pads typically emit a metallic grinding or squealing noise when they’re worn down, but it’s best to have this system routinely inspected to avoid reduced brake performance.
Wash and clean your vehicle: A thorough washing with car shampoo not only keeps your vehicle looking great but also prevents corrosion, scratches and fading. Clean out the interior of your vehicle as well to maintain its value.
The timing of these tasks depends on your driving habits and your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual or ask a trusted mechanic for more information about the best time to schedule these tasks after you buy a used car.
What To Do After You Buy A Used Car Privately In Texas

Prepaid Maintenance Plans

Many auto owners create their own schedules and perform some or all of the above tasks in their own garage. For a more convenient option, consider a prepaid maintenance plan. These plans are most commonly offered by car dealers, but your local mechanic may also have a maintenance plan option for your convenience.

Maintenance plans aren’t the same as warranties. Paying for a maintenance plan may reduce the cost of oil changes, new windshield wipers or other services, but it won’t cover those expenses. Review the cost of these plans to consider whether a prepaid plan is more cost-effective than creating your own schedule.

Navigate the Car-Buying Process With PrivateAuto

These steps help you enjoy your purchase after you buy a used car. PrivateAuto helps you get there. Search listings today to see how PrivateAuto can help you find a used vehicle and safely transfer funds to a verified buyer in Texas.