Buying A Car Out Of State In Texas: A Guide To Registration, Taxes, And Fees

With today’s online vehicle listings, finding your perfect car often means looking outside your own state’s dealership lots. But purchasing an out-of-state vehicle comes with extra steps for registration, taxes, and more in the Lone Star State.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Texas residents can legally buy and register cars from out of state, but will need to pay sales tax, obtain Texas registration, and potentially pay penalty fees.

This comprehensive guide covers everything Texas drivers need to know about importing an out-of-state car. We’ll look at registration and titling processes, sales tax calculations, safety and emissions inspections, auto insurance requirements, and key steps for avoiding penalties.

Registering and Titling an Out-of-State Car in Texas

Obtaining a Texas Title

When buying a car out of state, one of the first steps is to obtain a Texas title for the vehicle. In Texas, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for issuing titles. To obtain a Texas title for an out-of-state car, you will need to complete the necessary paperwork and pay the required fees.

The paperwork typically includes a completed Application for Texas Title (Form 130-U), which can be downloaded from the DMV’s website or obtained in person at a local DMV office. You will also need to provide proof of ownership, such as the out-of-state title or the manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO) if the vehicle is new.

Additionally, you may be required to provide other documentation, such as a bill of sale, vehicle identification number (VIN) verification, and proof of insurance. It’s important to check the DMV’s website or contact them directly to ensure you have all the necessary documents before visiting the office.

Registering Your Vehicle

Once you have obtained a Texas title for your out-of-state car, the next step is to register it with the Texas DMV. Registering your vehicle is necessary to legally operate it on Texas roads and highways.

To register your out-of-state vehicle, you will need to complete the Texas Motor Vehicle Transfer Notification (Form VTR-346) and the Texas Application for Title and/or Registration (Form 130-U). These forms can be obtained from the DMV’s website or at a local DMV office.

When registering your vehicle, you will also need to provide proof of identity, proof of insurance, and pay the required registration fees. The registration fees in Texas vary depending on the type and weight of the vehicle.

It’s important to note that Texas requires vehicles to pass a safety inspection before they can be registered.

Once you have completed the necessary paperwork and paid the fees, the Texas DMV will issue you a registration sticker and license plates for your out-of-state vehicle. It’s important to keep these documents in your vehicle at all times to avoid any legal issues while driving in Texas.

If you have any further questions or need more information regarding registering and titling an out-of-state car in Texas, it is recommended to visit the official Texas DMV website at for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Paying Sales Tax on Out-of-State Vehicle Purchases

When buying a car out of state in Texas, one important aspect to consider is the payment of sales tax. Sales tax is a mandatory fee that must be paid to the state government when purchasing a vehicle. However, the rules and regulations regarding sales tax on out-of-state vehicle purchases can vary from state to state.

Calculating Tax Amounts

The first step in paying sales tax on an out-of-state vehicle purchase is to determine the tax amount. In Texas, the sales tax rate is 6.25% of the purchase price of the vehicle. This rate may vary depending on the county in which you reside, so it is important to check with the local tax office or the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for the most accurate information.

To calculate the tax amount, simply multiply the purchase price of the vehicle by the applicable sales tax rate. For example, if you buy a car for $20,000, the sales tax amount would be $1,250 (20,000 x 0.0625).

It is worth noting that some states require the payment of sales tax on out-of-state vehicle purchases at the time of registration, while others may allow for a grace period. It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations of both the state you are purchasing the vehicle from and the state you will be registering it in.

Deadline for Payment

Once you have calculated the sales tax amount, it is essential to pay it within the designated deadline. In Texas, the deadline for paying sales tax on an out-of-state vehicle purchase is within 30 days of bringing the vehicle into the state.

Failure to pay the sales tax within this timeframe may result in penalties and fines.

To make the payment, you will need to visit the local county tax office in Texas or use the online services provided by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Be sure to have the necessary documentation, including the vehicle’s title, bill of sale, and any other relevant paperwork, as well as proof of insurance.

It is important to keep in mind that sales tax on out-of-state vehicle purchases can be a complex process, and it is advisable to consult with a tax professional or the appropriate government agencies to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.

For more information on sales tax on out-of-state vehicle purchases in Texas, you can visit the official website of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts at

Completing Inspections for Imported Vehicles

When buying a car out of state in Texas, it is important to ensure that the vehicle meets all safety and emissions standards before it can be registered. This involves completing inspections to verify the safety standards and emissions testing requirements.

Verifying Safety Standards

One of the first steps in completing inspections for imported vehicles is to verify that the car meets the safety standards set by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This includes checking for any recalls or safety issues associated with the make and model of the vehicle.

It is recommended to check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website for any safety-related information regarding the specific vehicle.

Additionally, it is important to inspect the vehicle thoroughly for any visible signs of damage or wear that could affect its safety on the road. This includes checking the brakes, tires, lights, and other essential components.

Emissions Testing Requirements

In order to comply with Texas’ emissions standards, imported vehicles must also undergo emissions testing. This ensures that the vehicle meets the state’s environmental regulations and is not emitting excessive pollutants into the air.

The specific emissions testing requirements may vary depending on the county in which you plan to register the vehicle. Some counties require annual emissions testing, while others may have different testing intervals.

It is important to check with the local county tax office or visit the Texas DMV website to determine the specific emissions testing requirements for your area.

During the emissions testing, the vehicle’s exhaust emissions will be measured to ensure they are within acceptable limits. If the vehicle fails the emissions test, repairs will need to be made in order to bring it into compliance.

Completing inspections for imported vehicles is a crucial step in the process of buying a car out of state in Texas. It ensures that the vehicle meets the necessary safety and emissions standards, ultimately providing peace of mind for the owner and promoting a cleaner environment.

Obtaining Insurance Coverage in Texas

When buying a car out of state in Texas, one of the most important steps is to obtain insurance coverage. In fact, it is illegal to drive a vehicle in Texas without proper insurance. Here are some key points to consider when obtaining insurance coverage:

1. Research Different Insurance Providers

It’s important to shop around and compare insurance providers to find the best coverage for your needs. Look for providers that offer competitive rates and good customer service. Websites like and can help you compare quotes from multiple insurance companies.

2. Understand Texas Insurance Requirements

Before purchasing insurance, it’s important to understand the minimum requirements set by the state of Texas. In Texas, drivers are required to have liability insurance coverage, which includes bodily injury and property damage liability.

The minimum coverage limits are $30,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident.

3. Decide on Additional Coverage Options

While liability insurance is the minimum requirement, it’s worth considering additional coverage options to protect yourself and your vehicle. Collision coverage can help cover repairs or replacement in the event of an accident, while comprehensive coverage can protect against theft, vandalism, or other non-collision incidents.

4. Provide Required Information

When obtaining insurance coverage, you will need to provide certain information, such as your driver’s license number, vehicle identification number (VIN), and details about your driving history. Make sure to have this information readily available to streamline the process.

5. Get Multiple Quotes

Don’t settle for the first insurance quote you receive. It’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes to ensure you are getting the best coverage at the most competitive price. By comparing quotes from different providers, you can find the policy that best fits your needs and budget.

6. Consider Bundling Insurance Policies

If you already have other insurance policies, such as homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, consider bundling them with your car insurance. Many insurance providers offer discounts for bundling policies, which can help you save money on your overall insurance costs.

7. Review and Update Your Coverage Regularly

Once you have obtained insurance coverage, it’s important to regularly review and update your policy as needed. Life circumstances, such as moving, getting married, or buying a new car, can impact your insurance needs.

It’s a good idea to review your coverage annually or whenever there are significant changes in your life.

By following these steps and obtaining insurance coverage, you can ensure that you are legally protected while driving your out-of-state car in Texas.

Avoiding Penalties When Importing Out-of-State Vehicles

Importing an out-of-state vehicle can be an exciting experience, but it’s important to be aware of the potential penalties and fees that can arise if not done correctly. By following a few simple guidelines, you can avoid these penalties and ensure a smooth process.

Research State-Specific Regulations

Each state has its own regulations regarding the importation of vehicles from out of state. It’s crucial to research and understand the specific regulations of the state you are importing the vehicle into. This will help you ensure that you meet all the necessary requirements and avoid any penalties.

Check the official website of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the state’s transportation department for information on registration, taxes, and fees. These websites often provide detailed guides and instructions on how to import a vehicle from out of state.

Obtain Required Documents

When importing a vehicle from out of state, you will need to provide certain documents to complete the registration process. These documents may include:

  • Vehicle title
  • Bill of Sale
  • Proof of insurance
  • Out-of-state registration
  • Valid identification

Make sure to gather all the necessary documents before heading to the DMV. This will help you avoid any delays or penalties due to missing paperwork.

Pay Taxes and Fees

One of the most important aspects of importing a vehicle from out of state is understanding and paying the required taxes and fees. These can vary depending on the state and the value of the vehicle.

In Texas, for example, when you import a vehicle from out of state, you will need to pay the state sales tax, which is based on the vehicle’s purchase price or its standard presumptive value (SPV). The SPV is determined by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and is used to calculate the vehicle’s taxable value.

Additionally, you may also need to pay registration fees, title transfer fees, and any applicable inspection fees. It’s important to budget for these expenses and ensure that you pay them in a timely manner to avoid penalties.

Consult with a Professional

If you are unsure about any aspect of importing an out-of-state vehicle, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional. An attorney or a tax advisor specializing in vehicle importation can provide valuable guidance and ensure that you navigate the process smoothly.

Remember, avoiding penalties when importing an out-of-state vehicle is all about being well-informed and prepared. By understanding the regulations, gathering the necessary documents, paying the required taxes and fees, and seeking professional advice when needed, you can enjoy your newly imported vehicle without any unnecessary complications.


With some planning and preparation, buying a car from another state and bringing it back to Texas goes smoothly. By promptly registering the vehicle, paying necessary taxes, obtaining insurance, and completing required inspections, you can get your out-of-state car fully compliant with Texas laws.

Taking the right steps within the state’s timeframes helps avoid expensive registration penalties. So review the process ahead of time and embrace the open roads in your car new-to-you!

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