Buying and Registering a Car

Buying a Car

If you decide to buy a car, take the time to research your options; it will be one of the largest purchases you make while a student. Here are a few tips to help you in the process:

  • Bring along a friend or classmate along who knows something about cars.
  • Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide can help guide you through the used car buying experience. There is a fair amount of free information on this website, and you can also pay a one-month subscription fee to find out about the track record of various cars sold in the U.S. This is an excellent way to find out which models are generally reliable (have few problems) and which are not.
  • Kelley Blue Book offers information on the value of used cards, and can help you determine what a fair used car price is.
  • Test-drive the car. If possible, try driving on a highway so that you can accelerate, brake, etc. Test the lights, windshield wipers, windows, doors, etc.
  • Ask about maintenance. How often has the car received oil changes and maintenance checks? Do they have records of this? Has the timing belt been changed? What has been repaired? What might need repairs/replacement soon?
  • Ask how many miles the car has on it.
  • Ask how many miles per gallon the car gets (mileage - gasoline consumption).
  • Ask if the car has been in an accident. You can also check this by going to Carfax and entering the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
  • You can usually get a better price from individuals selling cars than from used-car dealers; however, this takes more time. Used-car dealers, on the other hand, sometimes offer limited warranties (similar to a "guarantee").
Conversion Table for Gasoline Consumption
Miles per U.S. gallon (mpg) Km per Liter Liters per 100km Miles per UK gallon
15 6.37 15.68 18.02
20 8.49 11.76 24.03
25 10.62 9.4 30.06
30 12.74 7.84 36.04
35 14.86 6.72 42
40 16.98 5.88 48.06
Registering a Car

After you purchase a vehicle and before taking it on the road, you need to complete the following steps in order to register your car. You will need to have a Virginia driver's license to register your car. You do not need a Social Security Number to title or register a car. The forms ask for one, so if you do not have a Social Security Number, write “NONE” in that space.

Step 1: Purchase auto insurance
It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle without auto insurance in the US. With most insurance companies, you can purchase car insurance without a Social Security Number. In some cases, the company will charge a surcharge. Below are some companies that will provide insurance without a Social Security Number:

National General
State Farm

If you do not have car insurance, you may register and drive the car in Virginia for up to 12 months. However, you will have to pay an additional $500 uninsured automobile fee at the time of registration. This fee does not provide any insurance coverage, so if you get into an accident, you will be required to pay all damages to your car as well as that of the other driver. Additionally, you will be responsible for any personal injury. This can be very expensive, up to or beyond $100,000.

Step 2: Ensure the vehicle is properly titled
A title is an official document from the DMV that states that you are the owner. You will also have to pay Motor Vehicle Sales and Use Tax when titling the car. Sales tax is calculated at 3% of the trade-in value listed in the NADA Used Car Guide.

If you are buying a new vehicle from a dealer, the dealer may process the proper title work and submit paper work to DMV for processing.

If you are buying a vehicle from an individual or the dealer is not handling the title work, ensure that Section A of the title has been completed, including the signature of the owner.

Visit your local DMV to obtain a title to the vehicle.

Step 3: Register the vehicle with the DMV
Once your vehicle is titled, you may register your vehicle with the DMV and pay the appropriate registration fees.

Step 4: Place the license plates on the vehicle
You will need to purchase new license plates (sometimes called tags) at the DMV.

Step 5: Get your car inspected
You will need to have your car inspected for a Virginia State Inspection. Most garages offer this service. The fee for an inspection is set at $10, the garages may not charge more.

Step 6: Register your vehicle with the city
Go to your respective city's (e.g., Williamsburg, James City County, etc.) Commissioner of the Revenue Office to register your vehicle. The DMV may also do this for you.

DMV Information

Department of Motor Vehicles Customer Service Center (Williamsburg Office)
952 Capitol Landing Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185-4327
(804) 497-7100
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday, 8am to 12pm Saturday, except holidays.

Department of Motor Vehicles Customer Service Center - Gloucester
2348 York Crossing Drive, Hayes, VA 23072  (Food Lion Shopping Center)
(804) 497-7100
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday, 8am to 12pm Saturday, except holidays.

Directions to the DMV by Bus

Take the Orange Line of the Williamsburg Area Transport (free with W&M ID).

You can catch the bus at the Williamsburg Transportation Center (468 North Boundary Street, between the post office and the fire department) and get off directly at the DMV stop. The bus ride takes approximately ten minutes to the DMV but will take 20 -30 minutes on the return.

Google Maps also has an option to search for routes using public transportation.