Buying a Car in Maryland

Maryland’s requirements regarding vehicle purchasing fall well within the normal range for states. We’ve collected the general information for you here, as well as links for further details.

1. Title Information

In Maryland, all vehicles require a title. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, the dealer should take care of all the necessary paperwork. You will receive the title from the state, regardless of whether you have bought the vehicle outright or have a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle. If you have a lien, the state will also send a Maryland Security Interest Filing (SIF) to the lienholder.

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle, you will have to file the paperwork. You will need the previous title signed over to you, the application form (if the title is already a Maryland title, you can use that title as the application by filling out the appropriate section — if not, use the official form), a proof of purchase (depending on the age of the car and the sale price), an odometer disclosure statement and a Maryland Safety Inspection Certificate (proving that the vehicle meets the state’s safety standards). Once you have all of this documentation, you can either mail it to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration or bring it directly into one of the agency’s offices.

In all cases, you have 60 days to title and register the vehicle.

2. Insurance Information

Maryland requires mandatory insurance before an owner can drive a vehicle. This requirement means you will need to get your insurance on a newly purchased vehicle before you actually take it off the lot or out of the driveway for the first time.

The minimum insurance requirements in Maryland are $30,000 liability for bodily injury per person ($60,000 per accident) and $15,000 liability for property damage.

The penalties for not having insurance can be steep in Maryland. You can be fined up to $1,000, be fined $150 for 30 days without insurance and $7 for each day after that period, and spend up to one year in prison. So go get the insurance.

3. Emission Information

Maryland requires emission testing on most vehicles on a biannual basis before they can be registered. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, it will be exempt for those first two years. Vehicles that are pre-1977 models are exempt as well, as are electric cars and hybrids that pass the Maryland exemption standard. All other vehicles are required to be tested, using the most advanced test possible for each model, at various testing stations around the state.

4. Lemon Law Information

Maryland’s Lemon Law has some components that are unusual. It covers new and leased vehicles that are less than 24 months old or have less than 18,000 miles on them. However, the vehicle does not have to be bought in Maryland (it simply has to be registered there) and you do not have to be the original owner. If you buy a used vehicle that still falls within the original coverage period, the car may still qualify.

In order for the Lemon Law to begin to apply, one of the following situations must be in effect:

  • The vehicle has a problem that has not been fixed after four attempts.
  • The vehicle remains out of service because of repairs for 30 days.
  • The vehicle has a brake or steering problem that was not repaired, and this caused the vehicle to fail an inspection.

If one of these is in effect, the vehicle owner can begin Lemon Law procedures. The owner must contact the manufacturer by certified mail. The manufacturer then has 30 days to repair the problem. If the problem persists, the owner can then request a replacement or refund (minus up to 15 percent of the value for mileage and use). If the manufacturer refuses the request, the owner can either take the manufacturer to arbitration, court, or both.

5. Special Information

Maryland has no additional regulations that prospective car buyers need to be aware of.