Buying a Car in Missouri

Missouri has a set of vehicle buying regulations that are similar to those found in other states. Here are the pieces of information you need to know, along with links for deeper details, to help make your vehicle purchase in the Show Me State as smooth as possible.

1. Title Information

In Missouri, all vehicles must be titled. If you are purchasing a new vehicle from a dealer, they should take care of the paperwork for you (you should make certain they do so). You will receive the title in Missouri even if you have a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle.

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle from a private owner, you will need proof of insurance, an odometer disclosure (either on the title or separately), a notarized lien release (proving that the individual owns the vehicle), a receipt showing you paid property tax, and proof of safety and emission inspections if required. You will take all of this to a Department of Revenue (DOR) office in the state to complete the titling.

In all cases, you have 30 days to complete the title and registration paperwork.

2. Insurance Information

Missouri does have mandatory liability insurance requirements and they are fairly similar to those found elsewhere around the country. The minimums are $25,000 per person bodily damage ($50,000 per accident) and $10,000 property damage. The fines for not having insurance are increasing in Missouri, and the DOR is notified anytime you either have a policy canceled or receive a ticket for not being able to prove that you have insurance. So do yourself a favor and get coverage before you drive a newly purchased vehicle for the first time.

3. Emission Information

Missouri only requires emission testing for vehicles registered in the city of St. Louis and four counties within the state. Vehicles are required to be tested every two years, with even-numbered-year models being tested in even-numbered years and odd-numbered-year models being tested in odd-numbered years. If you are buying a new vehicle, it will only be exempt from emission testing for the first two years (until its even-numbered/odd-numbered year comes up again). It will, however, be exempt from safety inspections for five years. Vehicles brought into the state must pass an emissions test before being titled and registered, regardless of age.

Very few other vehicles are exempt, so if you are buying a vehicle from a previous owner, make certain it has passed its emissions test. If you need to get the test done yourself, you can do it at any of the emission testing program’s testing stations.

4. Lemon Law Information

Missouri’s Lemon Law works slightly differently than similar laws in many other states, as it works for new and leased vehicles sold in Missouri and lasts as long for a particular vehicle as the manufacturer’s factory warranty lasts (which can be far longer than most states’ Lemon Law cutoff time of one or two years).

In order for the law to apply to it, a vehicle must have had a problem that was not successfully repaired in four attempts, or it must have been in the shop because of repairs for at least 30 business days. However, in order for these attempts or days to count, the vehicle owner must inform the manufacturer of the repair needs and the outcomes. Once the attempts or days have been used up, the owner can attempt to get a refund or replacement from the manufacturer.

The manufacturer may require a very specific way of dealing with complaints, and by law, they must explain the required method to the vehicle owner. Arbitration may be required and if you demand a refund, there will be a deduction for mileage.

5. Special Information

Missouri requires a yearly safety inspection for vehicles six years old and older. A notice stating that the inspection will be required gets sent 60 days before a vehicle’s registration date. If you are purchasing a vehicle that is at least six years old, it will need to be inspected again before the title and registration can be switched. Missouri claims great pride in its safety program.