I am a new student in the US. I want to buy a car in cash and found one in the Facebook market. But I don't know what are the afterwards steps?

1- Should I give all the money in cash to the seller and get the car and it's license( I think they call it pink paper)?

2- Should seller come with me to the DMV office or another places for paperwork, etc.? Or I must do it alone?( I mean I only meet the seller before getting the car + it's license and it's not necessary to meet him/her again?)

3- Can I buy a car when I don't have SSN/ITIN and also don't have a US driver's license but my home country's driver's license?

4- When should I insure the car? Is it necessary? If so what is the minimum insurance that is mandatory to get?

5- If seller writes lower price than what I paid him, or even writes the car is a gift to me, does this avoid tax or reduces it?

6- Is there any notes and tricks to consider that wasn't in my questions?

Thank you very much in advanced!

  • This would probably be better suited for the Personal Finance & Money stack.
    – brhans
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 16:12
  • Re #3, you can buy a car without having a driver's license, but you are not allowed to drive it at all - not even to drive it home from wherever you bought it. Why do you want to buy a car that you can't drive? Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 17:19
  • @NateEldredge I believe people with non-US licenses can often drive in the US.
    – MWB
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 23:24
  • @NateEldredge: I read somewhere that foreigners with their home country driver's license can drive a car up to it's expiration or 3-6 months after entrance to US/California.
    – user37953
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 23:25
  • Oh, you have a foreign driver's license? You said "don't have driver license?" so I assumed you didn't have any at all. Maybe you would like to edit the question. Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


Although this looks like a request for specific legal advice, it can be treated as a general-interest question about legal obligations and risks (not practical advice).

When you buy a car, you ordinarily give the seller money (cash is fine, and might be the only thing they will accept), and they hand yo the car and the "pink slip" i.e. the title – which must be filled out to indicate that they have transferred title to you. You then have to do everything else. The seller does not normally go the the DMV with you, but you have to be sure that the title is properly transferred. You don't need an SSN to actually buy property, but that doesn't mean that you won't need one for a later purpose related to the car. Writing a false sale amount is a legal red flag. Liability insurance is mandatory, so you should have the vehicle insured per the state rule before you drive it. That is the summary. Now the details.

In California, the seller must notify the state of the transfer within 5 days. The buyer must do their part within 10 days. For the buyer, this means providing the original title, bill of sale if the seller is not the person on the title, smog certificate (perhaps) and odometer reading (perhaps). There are also fees. This page gives you the relevant forms. A notary may be required for some forms (meaning the owner/seller has to go somewhere), for example to apply for a duplicate title (if they lost it)

This page describes the liability requirements in California. You must be insured if you drive or park on California roadways, which implies that you have to get insurance before or at the time you buy the car. Under CVC 1653.5

(a) Each form prescribed by the department for use by an applicant for the issuance or renewal by the department of a driver’s license or identification card pursuant to Division 6 (commencing with Section 12500) shall contain a section for the applicant’s social security account number.

So you cannot drive (get a driver's license) without an SSN.

  • 1
    "So you cannot drive (get a driver's license) without an SSN." Are you sure? Because one of my friends in CA got his driver's license without having SSN/ITIN because he was an F-2 visa holder.
    – user37953
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 16:59
  • 2
    "Writing a false sale amount is a legal red flag." The phrase "red flag" doesn't seem strong enough - it's a felony. I elaborated in my answer. Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 17:39
  • Well, I was considering this from the buyer's perspective, but yeah it is clearly a felony forth seller to make such a statement. As far as I can tell, the buyer doesn't have to make a sworn statement about the buying price.
    – user6726
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 18:21
  • @user6726: I believe they do, see my answer. After all it is the buyer who benefits from a false statement (tax is collected from the buyer), so it is logical that the buyer should be liable. Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 23:27
  • @user6726: See for instance back side of CA title certificate. A little hard to read but purchase price is at the lower right of the highlighted red area. And it says "I certify under penalty of perjury..." Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 23:31

If seller writes lower price than what I paid him, or even writes the car is a gift to me, does this avoid tax or reduces it?

People sometimes try this, but it is illegal.

When you go to register the car at the DMV, you will be required to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, that all the information on the title is correct, which includes the purchase price. It needs to be the amount you actually paid, and you cannot circumvent this by promising to pay part of it later, or anything else like that.

A person convicted of perjury under California law can be sentenced to two to four years in prison. Tax fraud charges might also be possible. As a non-citizen, you could also be deported (forced to leave the US).

Of course, people who break the law sometimes get away with it. But this seems like something the state would be motivated to enforce, since violations keep the state from getting taxes that are owed.

See also https://money.stackexchange.com/questions/43590/sales-tax-trick-while-buying-a-used-car-i-e-declaring-sale-at-lower-than-act on Money.SE.

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