Buying a Car in Virginia

Virginia has a number of regulations that impact car purchases. We’ve collected the most crucial pieces of information regarding these regulations here and provided links to greater details in order to help you have a pleasant vehicle purchasing experience in the state.

1. Title Information

Virginia requires all vehicles that are going to be driven within the state to be titled. If you are purchasing a new vehicle from a dealer, they will take care of the paperwork for you (but make certain they do so). In Virginia, the owner receives the title even if there is a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle. When the lien is paid off, the lienholder submits a release form to the state and you get an updated title without the lien on it.

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle from a private owner, you will need the current title assigned to you, an odometer disclosure form if the vehicle is 10 years old or newer, the appropriate tax for the vehicle, a Bill of Sale, and proof of insurance and residence. You can submit all of this at a Department of Motor Vehicles customer service center.

In Virginia, you have 30 days to title and register a vehicle. You also have the option of having either a paper title or an electronic title. If you request an electronic title, then you can have it printed at any time for no cost by the state.

2. Insurance Information

Virginia requires mandatory insurance on all vehicles before they can be registered. The minimum insurance requirements are $25,000 liability per person bodily injury ($50,000 per accident) and $20,000 liability property insurance. If you cannot get insurance for some reason, Virginia offers a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee, which does not give you insurance but does allow you to register the vehicle for one year.

The penalties for not having insurance in Virginia include suspension of license, suspension of registration and fines. Keep in mind that Virginia keeps track of insurance electronically, so if your policy is canceled, the state is immediately aware of the fact. All of this means that you should make sure you get insurance as soon as you purchase your vehicle, and make sure you hold onto it as long as you have the vehicle.

3. Emission Information

Certain areas in Virginia require vehicle emissions inspections. These include the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford, as well as the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.

If you purchase a new vehicle, it will be exempt for two years. If you purchase a vehicle that is older than 25 years, it will be exempt completely. Fully electric vehicles are also exempt, as are some hybrids. All other vehicles must be tested every two years.

Testing is done at official emission testing stations.

4. Lemon Law Information

Virginia’s Lemon Law covers new and leased vehicles for 18 months from the time they are purchased.

In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, the vehicle must have a serious defect that has not been repaired after three attempts; a major defect that could cause death or serious injury and that has not been repaired after one attempt; or have been in the shop for 30 cumulative days or more for repairs.

If any of these conditions exist, the vehicle owner must inform the manufacturer in writing and give it one last chance to fix the problem. If that is unsuccessful, then the owner can attempt to get a refund for or replacement of the vehicle. Arbitration may be required.

5. Special Information

Virginia’s Lemon Law also covers used cars by requiring dealers to give a 30-day warranty on these vehicles. If significant problems arise during the warranty period, an owner can return their vehicle for a refund.