Buying a Car in Ohio

Ohio has a host of regulations relating to vehicle purchasing. We’ve collected the information you need in one place here, with links to more details if you require them, in order to make your vehicle purchase as easy as possible.

1. Title Information

Ohio requires all vehicles to have a title. If you are purchasing a new vehicle from a dealer, they will take care of all the necessary paperwork, although you should make certain that they do so. In Ohio, if you purchase the vehicle with cash, you receive the title when the paperwork is complete. If you have a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle, the lienholder receives the title and you get a memorandum title for registering the vehicle. When the lien is paid off, the lienholder will send a form to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), which will then send you a new title for the vehicle.

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle from a dealer or a private owner, you will need to get the title signed over to you, and then get proof of identification and a smog inspection if you are in one of the counties that require emission testing. You then submit all that paperwork to one of the County Clerks Offices.

In all cases, you have 30 days from purchase to title and register your vehicle.

2. Insurance Information

Ohio requires mandatory proof of financial responsibility for any vehicle being driven within the state. Normally, most people fulfill this responsibility by buying liability insurance. The minimums of liability insurance in Ohio are $12,500 liability per person bodily damage ($25,000 per accident) and $7,500 liability property damage.

If you would prefer, however, you can instead choose to get a certificate for $30,000 after depositing a cash amount with the BMV, a bond for $30,000 based on two people owning real estate worth $60,000, or a bond worth $30,000 received through a bank. Regardless of your choice, it is important that you prove financial responsibility. You cannot drive your vehicle without proof of this and the fines are steep for not having that proof.

3. Emission Information

Ohio has emissions tests for vehicles registered in seven counties within the state. Within those counties, vehicles are tested biannually, 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 be exempt for the first four years. Vehicles that are 26 years old or older are also exempt, as are fully electric vehicles.

Emission testing must be done at any licensed Emission Inspection Station.

4. Lemon Law Information

Ohio’s Lemon Law covers new and leased vehicles that are bought within the state, and it lasts for one year or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first.

In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, one of the following conditions must exist:

  • The vehicle has a defect that continues after three attempts to repair it.
  • The vehicle has defects that have put it into the shop for repairs for 30 cumulative days.
  • There have been eight or more attempts to fix different problems with the vehicle.
  • There has been one unsuccessful attempt to fix a problem that could cause death or serious injury.

If one of conditions exists, the vehicle owner must send a certified letter to the manufacturer, which may request one additional attempt to repair the problem(s). If that fails, then the owner may demand a replacement or refund for the vehicle. If the manufacturer has an arbitration program, then the owner must do arbitration before bringing a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

5. Special Information

Ohio has no additional special regulations that you need to be aware of as a potential car buyer.