Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
W&M menu close William & Mary

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 along who knows something about cars.
  • Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide can help guide you through the used car buying experience. This is an excellent way to find out which models are generally reliable and which are not.
  • Kelley Blue Book offers information on the value of used cars 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? 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
  • 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").
  • Virginia laws require children to be in child safety seats (e.g., car seat) till the age of 8 years old. There are many different types of car seats and it is important to select the appropriate car seat based on the age and size of your child. Car seats must also be properly installed. 
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 do not need a Virginia driver's license to title or register your car, however, you must obtain one within 60 days of registering a car in Virginia.

You also 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

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.

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 for 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. You will receive a registration sticker (e.g., decal) to be placed on your vehicle's license plate. You are required to renew your vehicle's registration every year. Everytime, you renew your vehicle's registration, you will receive a new sticker for your license plate.

You will also receive a registration card. Keep the registration card in the vehicle.

Step 4: Place the license plates on the vehicle
You will need to purchase new license plates (sometimes called tags) at the DMV. Do not forget to place your registration sticker on the license plate on the rear of your car.

Step 5: Get your car inspected
Before operating a vehicle in Virginia, it must pass an annual safety inspection and display a valid safety inspection sticker. 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.

Step 7: Obtain a Virginia Driver's License
If you do not have a Virginia driver's license, you must obtain one within 60 days of registering a car in Virginia.

DMV Information

Department of Motor Vehicles Customer Service Center - Williamsburg
5235 John Tyler Highway, Williamsburg, VA 23185
(804) 497-7100
Hours: 9am-5pm Monday - Friday, 8am-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: 9am to 5pm Monday - Friday, 8am-12pm Saturday, except holidays.

Directions to the Williamsburg DMV by Bus
Take the Jamestown Line of the Williamsburg Area Transit (free with your W&M ID).