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Vehicle Ownership

The decision to purchase a vehicle during your time in the US should be carefully considered. Owning a car is rather expensive and can be very troublesome, due to costly repairs and associated requirements. You must maintain current registration, annual state inspections, and valid insurance for any vehicle you own. Additional expenses will include fuel, maintenance, and parking fees. However, you must weigh these against your needs and the convenience of having your own transportation available. For more information on alternative options, see our Transportation page.


Purchasing a Car

If you decide to purchase your own car, there are two common ways to buy: 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 to make certain repairs. New vehicles, however, are very expensive and lose a lot of their resale value during the first year, meaning 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 it is important to do your research and make sure it is in good condition first. Consider the following checks and tips when Buying a Used Car.

If you are using a reputable dealer, you will have a broader selection of quality used cars and may be able to get a limited guarantee or warranty. Whether you are buying privately or from a dealer, be sure to get information about the market value of the used car you are considering. The listed price is not necessarily what you must pay and you may be able to negotiate a better bargain with the seller. Helpful resources include: Kelley Blue Book (for market values of new/used cars), Edmunds (to locate specific models available in your area), and CarFax (for vehicle history reports, fee).

Make sure you get a written receipt for your purchase, especially for a used car, which is required for registering the car in your name and paying sales tax at the DMV. You must also obtain the original title, a legal document showing proof of ownership. Make sure there are no liens listed on the title, which means that 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 you should be suspicious that the vehicle is not legally for sale and should not make the purchase.

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


Vehicle Registration

To register a car with in New York, you will need to submit the appropriate documents and pay the necessary fees at a local DMV office. Forms are found online and you may be able to file electronically. The standard documents are listed below, but may vary depending on your circumstances. For details, see DMV Registration Instructions.

-  Vehicle Registration/Title Application, Form MV-82
-  Verification of insurance, such as the insurance identification card (see below)
-  Receipt of purchase, listing the full sale price
-  Original Title, signed by seller as proof of transferred ownership
-  Proof of identity and date of birth, such as immigration documents & drivers license
-  Payment for registration fee and sales tax, unless you already paid to a dealer


Car Insurance

All vehicles in New York State must meet 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 registration. There are many insurance companies to choose from, which often offer "good driver" discounts (no tickets or accidents). Feel free to shop around for competitive rates among different insurers. However, if you do not have a Social Security Number or NYS drivers 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, remember that "you get what you pay for"!  If your insurance premiums are very low, it is not likely that your benefits will cover very much in the case of an accident or injury.

Discounts for Driver Education: Driving in the US can be challenging, especially if you are not familiar with local traffic patterns and weather conditions. To learn techniques for safety and collision prevention, you may want to take a Defensive Driving Class or Driver Improvement Course. Such programs may also reduce your car insurance costs!  You could receive 10% off your collision and liability premiums for the principal driver. Recommended AAA courses are available at various locations in our area.