What to Bring When Buying a Car?

Make sure you have everything you need when buying a car by checking this list! From your driver's license to your insurance card, we've got you covered.

What To Bring When Buying A Car

If you’ve found a great deal on a new car, you want to act fast. However, it’s important that you are prepared, so you must know what to bring when buying a car. Otherwise, you could spend a lot of wasted time.

In this guide, we break down all of the goods that should be with you on the visit. We also discuss what additional items you should have when trading in a car. 

Items to Bring When Buying a Car

You will need your driver’s license and proof of residency. To prove income and your credit score, you will also need pay stubs, references, a credit report and loan preapproval paperwork. You should also bring your car insurance card, any discounts you are entitled to and the payment for the vehicle.

1. Driver’s License

Before you can drive off in a vehicle for a test drive, the dealership will copy your license. However, this photo identification is also needed for the purchase or lease agreement. 

You want to double-check your license to ensure it is still valid and has the correct address. If it doesn’t, you should have this fixed before your appointment. 

2. Car Insurance

You must have proof of insurance before buying a car from a dealer. While you could start the process while you are the dealership, this takes up a lot of time.

Instead, call your agent ahead of time and put the car on your policy. Remember to bring your cards with you to the appointment. 

RELATED: 10 Things to Look for Before Buying a Used Car (Guide)

3. Pay Stubs

If you are applying for a loan, you must prove your income. It’s best to bring several weeks’ worth of pay stubs with you to the appointment. 

You could also bring last year’s income tax return with you to prove consistency. If need be, the dealership may request permission to contact your employer.

4. Residency Proof

If you have recently moved, it’s necessary to show proof of where you live. This is simple to prove if you have some utility bills in your name with the correct address.

They should be recent. You will also want the account number visible so the dealership can confirm the information with the utility company if needed.

5. Credit History

The dealership is going to pull your credit history during the appointment. However, having this information handy during the negotiation process is helpful since you already know what you qualify for. 

If there are issues with your credit report, it’s best to fix them before you go for a loan. Otherwise, you might pay more than necessary. 

RELATED: How to Get a Car Loan with Bad Credit (10 Easy Tips)

6. Loan Preapproval

If you plan to finance the vehicle through an outside source, have that information with you for the appointment. Sometimes, it’s best to go through your credit union or bank for a better rate.

This process can take a little longer, but with a preapproval letter, the dealership will be more apt to work with you. Plus, you have confidence in knowing what budget you are working with. 

7. Discounts

There are many discounts you might be entitled to. Search the manufacturer’s website ahead of time to see what you qualify for, whether it is for a recent graduate or veteran. 

You want to take this information with you because it might determine which car you choose. Also, it’s important to read all of the fine print so you don’t get yourself in a jam. 

RELATED: 5 Reasons to Use a Car Broker to Buy Your Next Vehicle

8. References 

If you are trying to get a loan with poor or non-existent credit, you will have to do some more work. It’s important to supply the dealership with a list of references that aren’t family members. In fact, they should be professional contacts.

It’s also possible that you will need a co-signer. If so, bring this person with you, along with all of their documentation. 

RELATED: When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

9. Payment

There are many ways to pay for your new car, but you must bring it with you. A handful of people choose to buy their car with cash or a check. If this is the case for you, make sure you have the money with you or in the bank account, ready to go.

If you are taking out a loan or leasing the car, you will need a little extra time at the dealership to fill out the paperwork. You will also want to put a down payment on the car to reduce the monthly expenses and qualify for special rates. 

If you prefer, you can also use your credit card. This is helpful if your credit card has a low-interest rate or you get special perks for using it. However, you want to call ahead to the dealership to make sure this is an option. Because the dealership has to pay merchant fees, some of them cap the transaction amount. They only want credit cards used for down payments, so you might run into trouble. If you still want to pay by credit card, you might be able to work out a deal where you pay their merchant fees, typically around 3%. 

RELATED: 15 Questions To Ask When Buying A Used Car

Items to Bring When Trading In a Car

1. Title

If you are trading a car in, you must have the title with you. If you don’t have it, call your local DMV first to get a duplicate for an extra charge.

The dealership needs you to transfer this title to them when you trade the vehicle. However, your lender might be holding the title, but the dealership will handle this transaction when they pay off the loan for you. 

RELATED: How Does Trading In a Car Work?

2. Car Registration

You should have a current registration on the car that you are trading it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been legally allowed to drive it to the dealership.

If the registration needs to be renewed, you should do that ahead of time. If you don’t, the dealer could dock you some money on the trade-in value.

READ MORE: Can You Sell a Car With Expired Registration?

3. Clean Car

It doesn’t take long to take the vehicle through a car wash and detail the interior. This small step can make a huge difference in how much money you receive on the trade-in. 

Also, it’s important that you take all of your personal belongings out of the vehicle before driving it in. If you don’t, you could easily forget to take out something important in the middle of the deal. 

4. All Keys

It costs a lot of money to replace keys. That’s why the dealership will want you to bring all of the keys you have with you. 

If you don’t have the transponder, the dealer could dock you the cost to replace it. You should also have the owner’s manual with the car tucked away in the glove box. 

5. Service Records

If you’ve been meticulously caring for your vehicle, it’s important to have all those records with you. The more you can prove you’ve taken care of it, the better the price is that you will receive.

Get a folder together with all of the service records. You also want receipts for any repairs that have been done, especially if they were major.