Buying a Car in Illinois

With an electronic title system that the state claims is one of the most secure in the country, Illinois takes its regulations for purchasing vehicles very seriously. So make sure you’re up to speed on the specifics listed here.

1. Title Information

In Illinois, vehicle titles are handled electronically. No paper title is generated, except when you are in the process of buying (or selling) a previously owned vehicle.

If you buy a new vehicle from a dealer, they will take care of the necessary forms for you. The title is processed electronically, so it does not matter whether you buy the vehicle outright or have a “lien” (a loan) for it. If you do have a loan, the state will simply transfer the title to your name when the lienholder submits a release form at the end of your loan payments.

If you are buying a used vehicle, make absolutely certain that the owner has a title to give you — if they don’t, the sale cannot happen. You will also need to get an application for a title, a tax form (so that you can pay the taxes on the sale) and proof of insurance (or at least an insurance policy that you will fill out on the title application form). You must then take these forms to one of the Secretary of State offices in Illinois to get the title transferred.

In all cases, you have only 20 days to get your title set up with the state.

2. Insurance Information

Illinois requires mandatory insurance on vehicles driven or registered within the state, as most states do. The mandatory minimum insurance amount for Illinois is $20,000 liability for injury/death of one person ($40,000 for two or more in a given accident) and $15,000 liability for property damage to one person in an accident.

While Illinois does not require proof of insurance on registration (just a signature stating that you will get it), the fines for failing to have insurance get steep very quickly. So make certain you follow this regulation.

3. Emission Information

Illinois has an emissions testing requirement for specific counties and zip codes within the state, generally located in northeastern Illinois (the Chicago area) and southwestern Illinois (near St. Louis, Mo.). You can find the specific zip codes where testing is required by checking out the website for the Illinois Air Team Emissions Program.

If you are buying a new vehicle, it will be exempt from emission tests for four years. Otherwise, any vehicle with a manufacture date of 1996 or newer will need to be tested every two years. Tests are required based on where the vehicle is registered and must be done at an appropriate testing location.

4. Lemon Law Information

Illinois’ Lemon Law is fairly harsh. It covers new vehicles purchased in Illinois, but only for 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, that vehicle must have either of the following:

  • A severe problem that has not been fixed after four attempts
  • A severe problem that has put the vehicle out of service for more than 30 business days

If either of these problems is affecting it, the vehicle falls under the law. Owners are then required to contact the vehicle manufacturer and become involved in an arbitration hearing. If the owner is successful, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle or refund its price, minus an amount for mileage.

If you have one of the aforementioned types of problems with your new vehicle, make sure that you document the repairs done on the vehicle and begin the process of dealing with the manufacturer directly before the 12-month coverage period is up or 12,000 miles have been reached.

5. Special Information

Illinois has no additional special information you need to know regarding purchasing a vehicle.