If you’ve recently purchased or leased a vehicle, paid off a car loan, or registered a car, keeping the documents for these transactions safe is vital. These documents prove you are the legal owner of your car and that the vehicle is legally registered at the DMV. They also provide proof of financial agreements, payoff dates, and payoff amounts.

Upon Purchase or Lease

From the moment you shake the seller’s hand, you’ll want to handle your vehicle’s records now while they are accessible and legible. Plus you have all the specs of your new ride at your fingertips, should you ever need to know its make, model, and features in the future.

First, look for a Bill of Sale document containing information about the seller, the buyer, and vehicle. Triple check the accuracy of the vehicle’s VIN number. This document can be a simple form downloaded from your state government’s website detailing a private sale from one individual to another. A transaction involving an auto dealer contains additional information about extended warranties or service plans.

Make sure you understand the terms of your lease agreement, including such things as mileage restrictions or end-of-lease terms. Having access to these key facts throughout your lease term, allows you to avoid an unexpected termination bill.

Purchase finance agreement, whether through the dealer or another financial institution, spell out facts of your loan including the duration, interest rate, monthly payment amount with due date, and details about early payoff. You also find contact information for your lender.

As soon as you receive these agreements, make digital copies and place them in the cloud as well as in the cabinet. This allows for easy access to your records both at home and on the go.

Your Vehicle’s Title

Once your loan is paid off, your lender will send you two very important documents, your vehicle’s Title document as well as a Release of Lien which proves your loan has been satisfied. You will only receive these records once your loan is paid and you fully own your car. When you receive your Title, make a digital copy of it for the cloud. Keep in mind that you will not receive a Title for a leased vehicle.

If you already have existing Titles on your vehicles, do you know where the originals are located? Are they in a safe deposit box or a file cabinet? Knowing where the physical copies are will allow you to easily trade-in or sell your asset. Remember, your Titles must be the original documents and not photocopies or scans. If you don’t know where your paper Title is, you’ll need to order a replacement from the DMV that could take several weeks and cause an unnecessary delay of sale or result in losing a potential buyer.

If your car is ever stolen or totaled in an accident, you’re required to sign over the Title to your insurance carrier once a claim for a total loss is filed. Avoid delaying this process by protecting this document.

Registration and License Plates

In order to legally drive your vehicle in any state, it must be registered with the proper state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV). Registration deadlines vary state to state, ranging from 10-30 days after purchasing or becoming a resident of a new state. Your Bill of Sale might also be required to register your vehicle in another state as well.

License plates come with registration and these can be ordered as part of the vehicle’s purchase, or at the DMV office if a private sale. If you have vehicles registered in other states, each vehicle in each state must be licensed and registered for that state.

License plates, registration, and proof of insurance are the only records for your vehicle that should stay with your vehicle at all times. License plates should be affixed to the front (If required in your state) and back of your car and your registration should be kept somewhere safe within the car, either in the glovebox or the center console.

If your vehicle is ever involved in an accident or the driver is pulled over, your registration tells officials at a glance where the car is registered as well as who the car is registered to. By keeping these records safe and uploading digital copies to the cloud, you’ll save yourself the headache of searching for them when you need them the most.

Maintenance History

Keeping detailed maintenance records and repair history is optional for your vehicle. These documents could help increase the value of your vehicle in a private sale, as you’ll be able to prove any upgrades or maintenance work performed. These documents can also allow you to make a warranty claim should anything on your car get recalled. If you haven’t kept meticulous maintenance records, don’t stress. The most important documents to keep safe are your loan and/or lease documents, plus your Title and current registration.

Don’t drive yourself crazy. At Organized Instincts, our seasoned team of daily money managers will help keep you on the road to financial success. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how we’ll shift your finances into second gear.