Buying a Car

Buying a car in the United States

You may wish to buy a car while living in the United States, depending on how close you live to campus and all of the other places you travel to frequently.

You can buy a new or a used car. Both are good options, and your choice should be based on your budget and needs.

Buying a new car

A new car is a big investment, so it’s important to research what a fair price is for a car before making a purchase.

To buy a new car, you will need to go to a car dealership.

Strategies for buying a new car

Before you visit the dealership, decide how much money you can spend and stay within that amount. Make sure you visit different dealers—many dealers sell identical models.

In Indiana, car dealerships are not allowed to sell cars on Sundays, so this is a good day to look at cars without being pressured to buy one.

Once you have done your research and chosen a car, you can select the best deal offered and make your purchase.

Kelley Blue Book

Available in print or online, Kelley Blue Book allows you to calculate and add taxes to the “list price,” along with a reasonable dealer profit.

Car Talk

This website and radio program offers advice on buying a car, car insurance, and car maintenance.

New Car Buyer’s Guide

Available at bookstores and drugstores, this guide contains the “list price” and “dealer cost” on base car models. If you are looking at an upscale model, the guide also lists the dealer cost on factory-installed options (air conditioning, power steering, etc.).


It is important to always drive a car before buying it.

Buying a used car

Buying a used car is generally more affordable than buying a new one. It’s important to make sure the car you buy is in good condition.

You can buy a used car from either a car dealership or a private seller.

Strategies for buying a used car

The first step in buying a used car is to determine how much money you can afford to spend. After you know that, you can begin looking for a car.

Dealers advertise on their websites, as well as in most newspapers. Private sellers place advertisements in the classified sections of newspapers, and many advertise their cars on the classifieds website Craigslist.

Note the condition of the car and the asking price, and consult resources like the Kelley Blue Book and Car Talk to help you determine the fair price.

Special considerations when buying a used car

If you’re considering buying a used car, ask the seller for the car’s maintenance record. Do not buy a used car without a maintenance record. This record can tell you work that has been done on the car and what issues the car has had.

Once you are satisfied with a car, take it to a mechanic for a diagnostic check. Even though this costs money, it is worth the price knowing if there are any problems with the car.

Registering and insuring a car

In order to drive your car legally in the United States, you must register it and buy insurance for it.

Registering your vehicle

You will need a license plate for your car to prove that you have registered it with the state. It is against the law to not register your car.

If you have a permanent driver’s license and buy your car from a car dealer, the dealer will give you a temporary license plate that is good for a maximum of 30 days. You must register the car to get a new plate before the 30-day period ends.

If you do not receive a temporary license plate, you should take the car to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to be registered as soon as possible.

Find a local BMV branch

Bring the following with you to the BMV:

The receipt that the seller gives you when you pay for the car.

Proof of ownership of the car that you get from the seller. If you have financed the car through a bank, the title to the car will go to the lending institution, not to you. However, you will receive a registration card.

A letter or insurance card that you receive from your insurance provider.

If you do not have a Social Security card, take all your immigration documents, including your passport and I-94, to the BMV.

Get a Social Security card


A staff member at the BMV will review your documents. You will have to pay a fee, based on the price you paid for your car and the model/year of the car. The fee can range anywhere from $26 to $1,000 or more.

Office of Parking Operations

The Office of Parking Operations provides detailed information about eligibility for student permits, how to purchase a permit, parking regulations, and more.

Learn more about parking at IU Bloomington

Campus Housing permits

If you are a student with a valid housing contract with Residential Programs and Services, you must put your name on a waiting list to purchase a Campus Housing (CH) permit for the academic year.

Get details on the Campus Housing permit