What Do I Need to Do if I Buy a Car From Out-of-State When I Live in Massachusetts?

Sometimes, the car you really want is at a dealer or a private seller from out-of-state. Perhaps, it’s the best deal for the money, or you’re looking for something specific not available in Massachusetts. Here are the things to keep in mind when buying a car from out-of-state, specifically when it applies to those living in Massachusetts.


Sales Tax


If you’re looking to buy a car out of state just to save on sales tax, don’t bother. A lot of people assume buying a car in New Hampshire means you don’t have to pay sales tax when you bring it back to Massachusetts. That’s simply not true. You’ll end up paying for the sales tax when you register the vehicle.


If you are getting a car from a dealer, usually they will collect that sales tax from you at point of sale. If this is the case, make sure you bring proof with you when you visit the registry. You’ll also need to complete a Sales Tax Exemption form, MVU-29, as well. You can find this document on the RMV website here. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying sales tax twice.


On the flip side, if you buy a car in a state where the sales tax is more than Massachusetts, you’ll only have to pay the MA rate.


Transferring Titles


When buying a vehicle in another state, most states usually give you about a month, or 30 days, to complete the transferring of titles and/or registration. There are some states in which you will be required to have your vehicle inspected first and pass that inspection before it can be transferred. This is not the case in Massachusetts. But in any case, you’ll need to obtain insurance before a vehicle can be registered and titled in the new state.


To complete the transition of a vehicle’s title from one state to Massachusetts, you’ll need your insurance agent complete, stamp and sign an Application for Registration & Title (RMV-1 Form). This form is available at any full-service RMV center in Massachusetts. Along with this form, there are different documents you’ll need to bring to the RMV if you purchased the vehicle from a dealer or from a private seller. In the case of a dealer, this is what you will need to bring:


  • Proof of insurance
  • A manufacturers Certificate of Origin (new vehicles only), or
  • The previous owner’s Certificate of Title, Dealer Re-Assignment form if applicable, or
  • The previous registration and bill of sale for vehicles that are exempt because of their age.


From a private seller, you will only need the following:


  • Proof of insurance
  • Out-of-state title, if there is no lienholder OR Current out-of-state registration, if applicable, if the vehicle was exempt from title due to its age or currently has a lienholder (in the case of a loan).
  • A completed Sales Tax Exemption form (MVU-29)

(In cases where there is a lien against the vehicle, you surrender the out-of-state registration rather than the out-of-state title.The RMV-1 form will note the complete lienholder information and the out-of-state title number.)

If there is no lienholder, the title will be processed and mailed to you within six to eight weeks. Otherwise, it will be mailed to your lienholder, instead.


Emissions and Inspections


Some states require your vehicle to be inspected first before that transition. But in Massachusetts, you don’t need to get an inspection sticker until you obtain insurance and register the vehicle. You then must get that vehicle inspection sticker within seven days of registration.


Note that the following vehicles are exempt from the tailpipe emissions inspection:


  • Cars, trucks and SUVs manufactured before model year 2003 (Note: while these vehicles no longer receive tailpipe emissions tests, if they emit excessive smoke they will fail their safety inspections.)
  • Light-duty diesel vehicles (with a GVWR of less than 8,500 pounds) manufactured before model year 2003
  • Medium-duty diesel vehicles (with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less) either manufactured before model year 2007 or that are 15 years or older (based on model year)
  • Medium-duty non-diesel vehicles either manufactured before model year 2008 or 15 years or older (based on model year)
  • New vehicles delivered to Massachusetts owners
  • Motorcycles and mopeds
  • Tactical military vehicles
  • Vehicles operated exclusively by electric power


However, all vehicles must pass a safety inspection. If the vehicle shows obvious emissions issues, then it will still fail the safety inspection.


Fortunately, the process of buying a car out of state isn’t as complicated as it is in some cases, such as California. It really only requires a couple of extra forms, and if you buy the vehicle from a dealer, there shouldn’t be an issue.