Buying and Owning a Car

International student driving a car

When you own a car in the United States, there are several steps you have to take when buying it to ensure that you legally own it and are covered in case of an accident.


Each car in the U.S. has a title certificate with the legal owner’s name on it. This title is a declaration of your ownership of the car. The title will be issued per the state that your car is registered in. So, when you buy a car, you want to make sure that the car title is transferred over into your name. Usually, if you buy a car from a dealership, they will handle the title and registration for you. But, if you buy a car from a friend, you will want to go to the Ohio BMV to get the title changed. When you move to a new state, you should update the title and registration to your new location.


The car registration refers to keeping your license plates valid. On the license plate, there is a sticker with a date so that you will know how long the license plate registration is valid. Each year, you must pay the BMV a specific amount (varies by each state) in order to renew your car’s registration/license plates. Typically, you can choose to pay online or in-person and you should check to see which BMVs are closest to you. Each year, the BMV should mail or email a notice to you about renewal, but it is your responsibility to make sure that your the date of the sticker on your license plates do not expire. When you renew your license plate registration, you will receive new stickers to put on the license plate of your car.

Car Insurance

In Ohio, you are required to have car insurance. It is illegal to drive a car without insurance and you must keep proof of your insurance in your car. If a police officer stops you, you must be able to show them that you have valid insurance. When you buy insurance you must have a specific amount of coverage. Please see the Ohio BMV web page for more details on the minimum insurance requirements.