Buying a Car in North Carolina

North Carolina’s regulations relating to vehicle purchasing are straightforward and largely easy to follow. We’ve collected here the information on these regulations, as well as links to further details if you need them, in order to help you have the smoothest possible vehicle purchase.

1. Title Information

North Carolina requires all vehicles to have titles. The requirements are the same to title a new or used vehicle from a dealer or a previously owned vehicle from a private owner. You will need the title or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO), proof of insurance, the Title of Application, an odometer disclosure statement, a Bill of Sale and, if you purchase your vehicle from a dealer, a Damage Disclosure Statement.

You will take all this information to your local Vehicle & License Plate Renewal Office. In North Carolina, owners get the title even if their vehicle has a “lien” (a loan). Once the lien is paid off, the lienholder will submit a form to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and there will be a new title sent to you.

2. Insurance Information

North Carolina has mandatory insurance requirements for all vehicles in the state. The minimum requirements are $30,000 liability per person bodily damage ($60,000 per accident) and $25,000 liability property damage per accident.

If you lose or cancel your policy, the state will be notified immediately and you will have seven days to get a new policy. Failure to do so can result in your license being suspended. So make sure you get the insurance and keep it up to date.

3. Emission Information

North Carolina requires safety inspections every year for vehicles. Even if you have purchased a new vehicle, it will need a safety inspection the first year. In 48 of the state’s counties, emission testing is also required every year. If you have purchased a new vehicle and it is registered in one of these counties, you will have to get an emissions test starting the second year you own the vehicle. The only vehicles that are exempt from inspections and emission testing are those older than 35 years.

4. Lemon Law Information

North Carolina’s Lemon Law coves new vehicles purchased in the state for 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. It does not cover used or leased vehicles.

In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, the owner must report any problem with the vehicle to the manufacturer and give it no more than 15 days to attempt to fix it. If the vehicle continues to have a defect after at least four repair attempts, or has been in the shop for repairs for a cumulative 20 days, the owner can then request a refund or replacement of the vehicle.

The owner must send a certified letter to the manufacturer in order to begin the lemon law process. Some manufacturers will require arbitration before proceeding with a replacement or refund, but such arbitration is binding on the manufacturer, not the owner.

5. Special Information

North Carolina has no unusual or special regulations that prospective car buyers need to be aware of.