Buying a Car in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a diverse group of regulations connected to vehicle purchasing. We’ve collected here the information about them that you need to know in order to have a pleasant vehicle purchase in the state, and also included links you can follow if you want additional information.

1. Title Information

Pennsylvania requires all vehicles to be titled. If you have purchased your vehicle from a dealer, they will handle the paperwork, meaning all you have to do is go to the nearest Department of Transit (DOT) Driver and Vehicle service center to show proof of insurance and pay the fee. In Pennsylvania, owners receive the title even if the vehicle was purchased with a “lien” (a loan).

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle, you will need the title transferred to you and notarized. Then you will take proof of insurance and go to the service center, just like in the case of a purchase from a dealer.

In all cases, owners have 20 days from the day they purchase the vehicle to get titling and registration done.

2. Insurance Information

Pennsylvania requires mandatory insurance on all vehicles driven in the state, so you will need to get insurance as part of purchasing your vehicle. The minimum coverage allowed is $5,000 medical coverage that pays for bills regardless of who is at fault, $15,000 liability per person bodily injury ($30,000 per accident) and $5,000 liability property damage.

Insurance is required in order to be able to register the vehicle, and letting the insurance lapse can lead to serious problems for you, including fines, license suspension, jail time and vehicle impounding. In other words, do yourself a favor and make sure you have insurance for your vehicle.

3. Emission Information

Pennsylvania requires vehicle safety inspections on a yearly basis. All vehicles are subject to this safety inspection. Until 2004, the inspection had to coincide with the registration renewal, but this is no longer the case. The two can happen at any point in the year as long as both happen on a yearly basis.

About half of the counties in Pennsylvania require emission testing that coincides with the safety inspections, and in these areas there are no exceptions to the tests, which must be done at one of the state’s DOT stations. Vehicles registered in the other 42 counties are not required to have emission testing, but that could change at any time, so keep an eye on this situation as you work on purchasing your vehicle.

4. Lemon Law Information

Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law covers new and leased vehicles that are registered in the state. This means that you can buy a vehicle in another state and register it in Pennsylvania and, as long as other prerequisites are met, the vehicle would still be covered. The law covers vehicles for 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, the vehicle must either have a defect that continues to be present after three unsuccessful attempts to repair it or have been out of service because of repairs for a cumulative 30 days. In Pennsylvania, the dealer must inform the vehicle manufacturer both when an owner brings in a vehicle for a second time on the same problem and when they bring it in for the third time.

Once either of the aforementioned situations occurs, the owner can demand a replacement or a refund. In Pennsylvania, as soon as the law’s requirements are triggered, the owner can move directly to arbitration or lawsuit; no further communication with the manufacturer is required.

5. Special Information

Pennsylvania has no particularly unique or complicated regulations relating to vehicle purchasing.