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What to Bring When Buying a Car at a Dealership

What Do You Need To Buy a Car

What to Bring When Buying a Car at a Dealership

When purchasing a vehicle from a dealership, it’s important to come prepared with the necessary documents because if you don’t, the buying process becomes long and stressful.

Here’s what documents you need to buy a car from a dealership:

DocumentDescription
Driver’s LicenseProof of identity and legal ability to drive
Proof of IncomeRecent pay stubs, Utility bills, or bank statements for financing
Proof of ResidenceUtility bill, lease agreement, or mortgage statement
Proof of InsuranceCoverage for the new vehicle
Form of PaymentCashier’s check, pre-approved loan check, or down payment
Trade-in DocumentsTitle, registration, Service Records, and loan information for current vehicle
Co-buyer InformationDriver’s licenses, proof of income, and residence for co-buyers
References for FinancingAdditional documentation for limited or poor credit history
What to Bring When Buying a Car at a Dealership

Relevant Articles to Read:


Driver’s License

You’ll need to present a valid driver’s license to prove your identity and legal ability to drive the vehicle off the lot.

Proof of Income

If you’re financing the car, the dealership will require proof of income, such as recent pay stubs or bank statements, to verify your ability to make the monthly payments.

Proof of Residence

Bring a recent utility bill, lease agreement, or mortgage statement to confirm your current residential address.

Proof of Insurance

Before driving off the lot, you’ll need to provide proof of insurance for the new vehicle. If you don’t have coverage yet, you can call your insurance provider from the dealership to get a policy set up and have them fax or email the proof of insurance.

Form of Payment

Be prepared with the necessary funds or financing arrangements. This could be a cashier’s check, pre-approved loan check from a bank or credit union, or a down payment if financing through the dealership.

The following documents would be needed but only in certain circumstances:

Trade-in Documents

If you’re trading in your current vehicle, bring the

  • Cars title,
  • Current vehicle registration
  • Service history
  • Any outstanding loan information

Co-buyer Information

If you’re purchasing the car with someone else, both parties should bring their driver’s licenses, proof of income, and proof of residence.

References for Financing

If you have a limited or poor credit history, the dealership might request references or additional documentation to support your financing application.

Your Credit Score and Buying a Car From a Dealer

When preparing to buy a car, it’s important to have an idea of your credit score.

The dealership will independently check your credit information with their preferred credit reporting agency. Before starting the car buying process, request a copy of your credit report from all three major reporting agencies to ensure accuracy so you’re not being surprised at the dealership.

As you would expect, a higher credit score leads to better financing options.

The average credit score for a used car loan is 657, but it’s possible to secure a loan with a lower score in some cases.

If you need to improve your credit score before purchasing a car, consider the following steps:

  1. Pay down credit card balances to utilize no more than 30% of your available credit.
  2. Make all credit card payments on time.
  3. Limit requests for new credit.
  4. Use programs like Experian Boost or UltraFICO to add a strong banking history or consistent on-time utility payments to your score.

Investing a few months in improving your credit score can significantly impact the loan terms offered, potentially saving you a substantial amount in interest over the life of the loan.

My Final Thoughts

Take it from me as a former dealer that having all these documents ready to go will make your car-buying experience much smoother and less stressful.

It shows the dealership that you’re serious about making a purchase and have come prepared, which will help during negotiations.

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Picture of Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.

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