Sponsored by the Utah Attorney General




There are many things to consider before you buy a car.
One of the most important is the TOTAL COST of your purchase.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you
need to think about!



  • Selecting a car - Is it best to buy a car from an owner or a dealer? Which cars will cost the most to insure? Which cars are the most dependable?
  • Paying for your car - Will you pay cash to the seller or go to a bank or credit union for a loan? What additional expenses will come up, such as sales tax, licensing and insurance?

  • Insurance- ALL cars must have insurance. If you get caught driving without insurance, you will be in a lot of trouble. Your car might be taken away from you and put in an impound yard. You will have towing and storage fees that will add up quickly. Not insuring your car could make you lose it!

    • Before you begin looking for a car, some things to consider are gas mileage, dependability, condition of the car, where to buy it, etc.

    • Gas mileage – A small car will get better gas mileage than a large car or truck. If the car is used to drive to work, think about how much more a larger vehicle will cost to make the trip. This could add up to hundreds of dollars a year.

    • Dependability - One of the best ways to check out the dependability of a car is to use Consumer Reports. To get this information, go to the public library and look for the periodicals (magazines). Consumer Reports has an annual “Buying Guide” that is very helpful. The reports go back about eight years. If the car you are considering is older, look for an older copy that would include the cars you are considering. Or you can check out your vehicle online at www.consumerreports.org, although you may have to pay to get the information you need.

    • Condition of the car – You will want to be sure that the car you buy is in good condition. If a major repair is required shortly after you buy it, you may not have enough money to actually use your car for quite some time. Here are some things to look at:

      • Emissions – This refers to gasses that come out of the tailpipe of the car. In counties where there are a lot of people, all cars must pass an emissions test. If the car doesn’t pass the test, you cannot register it. Correcting a problem AFTER you buy the car could be expensive.
      • Safety Inspection – All cars that drive in Utah or Arizona MUST pass a safety inspection. If it doesn’t pass, you cannot get it licensed. Serious problems may cost as much or more than the purchase price of the car. Make certain that the car will pass BEFORE you give the seller any money. This is especially true when buying from a private owner. Many professional mechanics will do a safety inspection on a vehicle for a small fee. Any seller who is reluctant to allow you to have the car inspected before purchase should be avoided.
      • General Condition – Be sure that everything works. Check the heater/air conditioning, radio, turn signals, overhead lights, automatic windows/door locks, etc.
      • Hidden Costs – Some cars cost more to license and insure.

    • You can buy your car from either a private owner or a dealer. Whichever you choose, make sure your choice is the car YOU want, not the one an owner or dealer wants to talk you into buying. Make up your mind about the kind of car you want and how much you can afford BEFORE you begin shopping. You can look at dealerships and in the newspapers or online to find models you like.
    • Here are some online sources for cars that are for sale. Keep in mind that the prices you see are the “asking price.” The actual selling price may be lower than the asking price. Don’t be afraid to offer a lower price that what the seller is asking.
    • St. George Area – Pioneershopper.com covers Southern Utah.
    • Utah Statewide – Autotrader.com has vehicles from all across the country. You will want to limit your choices by putting in your zip code and how far you are willing to travel. This site has both private sellers and dealers.
    • Utah Statewide - Cars.com is similar to Autotrader. Click on ”Shopping Advice" for some additional information that might help you make a selection.

    • You must provide “proof of insurance” when you register your car. Insurance for teenagers is expensive. Here are some facts you need to know.

    • A teenager without three years of driving experience and having an insurance policy themselves (as opposed to being on the policy of a parent or guardian) will pay the highest insurance rates.

    • Your driving record is extremely important. Never speed or drive in a way that could lead to an accident. A bad driving record will raise your insurance rates. Really bad drivers are put on the SR-22 insurance program which is extremely expensive.

    • Avoid cars or trucks that are considered “sports-type vehicles.” A model with a big engine, two doors (as opposed to 4-door models) or other sporty features will make your insurance payments higher.

    • If you get a loan from a bank, you will have to pay higher insurance rates. Most young people get only “liability insurance.” This insurance pays for the damage you may cause to other people or property. Your own car is not covered. This is the basic insurance. However, if you borrow money to buy your car, you will have to purchase collision and comprehensive insurance to cover the car you are buying. This adds to your monthly insurance payment.

    • Expect to pay between five hundred and eight hundred dollars for six months of insurance. Be sure you can pay for this BEFORE you buy your car.

    • Before you begin shopping for a car, be sure you will have enough money to pay for all the expenses. Here are some additional things you might encounter.

    • Sales Tax and Fees – You must add sales tax to the purchase price of the car. If you are getting a car from a dealer, ask for the total, out-the-door price. This would include tax and any fees he may want to add on. It is important for you to know that if you buy from a private owner, sales tax must be paid when you register the car.

    • Registration Fees – When you go to register your car at the Department of Motor Vehicles, you will have some additional costs. Here is an idea of what to expect.

    •   Title Fee $ 6.00

    • Sales Tax (If not already Collected by the dealer) 6.6% of purchase price

    • Registration Fee $24.50

    • Plate Fee $ 5.00

    • Property Tax Fee – Go to dmv.utah.gov which is the official Website for the Department of Motor Vehicles.


    • The title to your car shows that you own it. This is an official document issued by the state. If you buy your car from a private owner, get the title at that time. Do NOT give them money if they do not have the title – no matter how good the deal is. If you don’t have the title, you don’t own the car. Be sure the person selling the car is the owner shown on the title and be sure they sign the title as the “seller.” Also, get a Bill of Sale. This is like the receipt you get when you buy something from the store. It should have your name and the name of the seller, the date, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number, also known as a serial number) and the amount of the sale.

    • It is possible that the owner of the car has not completely paid for the car. In a case like this, the bank or credit union has the title of the car. The owner of the car will need to take the money you give them for payment to the bank to complete the transaction. When the car is totally paid for at the bank or credit union, they will send you, the new owner, the title. If you are getting a loan to pay for the car, the bank will send the title to the bank that has the new loan you are getting.

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JULY 2007
7/01/07 MEETING
Copyright © 2007 Utah Attorney General