by Armando Martinez

Buying a car from a private owner in Alabama can be a great way to save money, but before you can hit the road, you need to register the car in your name. You’ll have 20 days from your date of purchase to complete this. In this guide, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to register a car in a private owner car sale in Alabama.

Step 1: Obtain the Necessary Documents

Before you can register your car, you need to gather the necessary documents. These typically include the vehicle title, a bill of sale, valid form of identification and proof of insurance. The title must be signed by the seller and include the purchase price and odometer reading. If the title is lost, the seller can apply for a duplicate title through the Alabama Department of Revenue or through the state DMV agency in which their vehicle is titled.

The bill of sale should contain the date of sale, the purchase price, and the signatures of both the buyer and seller. It's also a good idea to get a vehicle history report to check for any accidents or other issues.

Step 2: Visit Your Local County Tag Office

Once you have all the necessary documents, you need to visit your local county tag office to register the car in your name. Bring the signed title, bill of sale, and a valid form of identification. You also need to fill out an Application for Certificate of Title (Form MVT 5-1) and pay the appropriate fees.

The fees vary depending on the age and weight of the vehicle and whether you're applying for a new title or transferring an existing title. You can use the Alabama Department of Revenue's online fee estimator to determine the exact amount you need to pay.

Lastly, a licensing official or their appointed deputy will need to inspect your vehicle prior to issuing your registration. This is required each time there is a change in ownership of the vehicle or your vehicle was titled out of state.

Step 3: Get Your License Plates

Once you complete the registration process, you’ll have the option to purchase, in most cases, temporary registration from the DMV. This will allow you to operate your vehicle until you receive your license plates in the mail within a few weeks. Once you receive these documents, you can replace your temporary registration and legally drive your car in Alabama.

Tips for a Smooth Transaction

  • Verify that the seller is the legal owner of the car and has the right to sell it. Check the title and the seller's identification to ensure everything is in order.
  • Have a mechanic inspect the car before you make the purchase. This can help you identify any mechanical issues that may not be apparent during a test drive.
  • Check the VIN on the title and the car to ensure they match. This can help you avoid purchasing a stolen car or a car with a tampered VIN.
  • Ensure all necessary paperwork is complete and accurate. Any mistakes or missing information can delay the registration process.

By following these simple steps and tips, you can ensure a smooth transaction when buying a car from a private owner in Alabama. Gather all necessary documents, visit your local county tag office, and wait for your license plates to arrive in the mail. Then, hit the road and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Alabama in your newly registered car!

We hope you found this guide helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Alabama Department of Revenue for more information or you can refer to information provided through

This article was written by Armando Martinez. Armando Martinez is among the nation’s experts on automotive titling, registration, DMV services and document operations. With nearly two decades of experience across a broad range of financial services functions and some of the largest names in auto, from Wells Fargo to Uber, Armando combines vision and ingenuity with a wealth of information so auto shoppers and sellers can learn from his experience.

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