Car Ownership

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New Haven is compact with enough decent public transportation alternatives, so it is not necessary to have a car to reach most places. Additionally, owning a car in CT is a major financial responsibility and many students do not own a car, especially because student budgets are not calculated to include the high costs of owning, maintaining and operating an automobile.

In addition to upkeep expenses and rising fuel prices, CT residents must register their vehicle with the state ($75), purchase automobile insurance (can cost $2,000 to $3,000 per year), pass emissions inspections ($20) and pay yearly city property tax on their vehicle (currently $44.85 per every $1,000 of vehicle’s assessed value). While state safety inspections are no longer required, it is important to make sure the car is mechanically sound with a pre-purchase check and regular safety checks ($25 to $75). Many car owners will need to pay for parking as well ($50 to $100 month).

Car Shopping Tips

Used cars for sale privately can be found through bulletin board notices posted around campus, Craigslist and other online services, YaleInternational Yahoogroup, and local publications including the local paper, The New Haven Register (Sunday edition) and the Yale Bulletin.

Cost analysis can be done online through Kelly’s Blue Book and Edmunds. Private Party Value is what you can expect to pay if you buy from a private party. Suggested Retail is the price you would pay if you purchase from a car dealer.

Check any used car thoroughly before you buy. Always test drive the vehicle and take it to a professional mechanic for a pre-purchase check. Carfax is an online vehicle history check that can provide useful pre-purchase information as well.

To register your car, you’ll need a valid Connecticut Driver’s License. Fees are currently approximately $125.

A valid Connecticut Driver’s License can significantly reduce your car insurance costs. Only a few companies will insure you without a Connecticut license. It may take months to get a Connecticut license, so plan ahead.

Used Versus New Car Dealers

Proof of insurance and the means to pay for a car is all you will need to purchase a car from a new car dealer. They arrange the rest of the paperwork. You will drive off the lot in your car with temporary plates and the new plates arrive in the mail a couple of weeks later.

New car dealers often sell used cars. They are usually more expensive than what you will find privately, but you can often find cars that are under warranty, and cost considerably less than a new vehicle would.

Used car dealers should be approached with caution. Although some of them are reputable, some have been known to cosmetically and temporarily cover up problems.

Purchasing a Car Privately

Once you have located the car you wish to purchase, given it a test drive and had it checked by a mechanic, here are the six steps involved to make your car legally drivable. Go to the DMV Web site to download detailed information or any forms you may require such as a Bill of Sale.

1. Negotiate and settle upon a price. Normally you pay for a car with a certified bank check, which you can obtain from your bank teller for a minimal fee.

2. Purchase insurance for the car. You will need to go in person, and will have to present a valid U.S. driver’s license or your home country license along with an international driver’s permit that you have obtained prior to coming to the U.S. You will also need the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) for the car. You can find this on the owner’s registration papers or the title of ownership for the car.

3. The seller will remove the plates from the car. You will then receive a Bill of Sale that includes the purchase price, car details, date and signature of the seller (you can obtain this form from the DMV). You will also receive the title (certificate of ownership for the car) and it should be endorsed on the back by the seller to transfer ownership to you. (Cars model year 1980 and older require only a bill of sale, not a title.) Without plates, you cannot drive the car, or park it on the street, so some people go with the seller to the DMV to make it more convenient to do the next step.

4. Make sure you have time to wait in line for several hours, and go to the DMV with:

  • the title, which has been signed over to you (for cars model year 1981 and up only)
  • the bill of sale
  • insurance card
  • valid driver’s license — If you don’t have a CT license, you need a CT non-driver’s ID to purchase a car. You can get it at the DMV the same day you go to register your car. See the section of this Web site on non-driver ID’s for details.
  • checks or cash to cover fees & taxes (detail about fees are obtainable on the DMV Web site)

Cars 8 years and older have a 6% sales tax calculated and added according to the amount stated on the bill of sale. Younger than that, and DMV figures the 6% tax themselves according to the ‘book value’ of the car - not the amount on the bill of sale. You can dispute this tax, and possibly receive a refund should the ‘book value’ be higher that what you actually paid. Inquire at the DMV about the steps to do so. Out-of-state vehicles will require a VIN check, provided free by the DMV. Even though it only takes about 5 minutes to do this check, because of the long lines for this part of the process, it can add an extra one to two hours to your wait.

5. You will receive a registration paper and plates for the car. They will take the title and a new title of ownership will be mailed to you within 8 to 12 weeks.

6. Put the plates on, and your registration and insurance papers in the car, and it’s ready to drive away!

Car Insurance

For a first-time insurer in the U.S., it can cost more than $3000 per year for basic coverage.

The most basic type of car insurance you can get is liability insurance.

To find the best rates (and they can vary considerably), be prepared to get a number of quotes from different companies to save hundreds of dollars.

Having a Connecticut driver’s license can help you save. Progressive has been mentioned as a ‘company that will insure on a license from another country’. There may be others, and you’ll want to shop around to compare services and rates.

A clean driving record with no moving violations and no accidents, can lower your insurance rate with some companies if you can get documentation proving this from your home country insurance or department of motor vehicles.

It is possible to arrange car insurance over the phone.

Connecticut Driving Laws

Each driver of the vehicle must have an acceptable valid driver’s license.

The driver and all front seat passengers are required by law to wear their seat belts. Back seat passengers aged 4-16 are required to wear seat belts.

Be careful to obey speed limits in the U.S. — they are strictly enforced. If you are caught and ticketed for speeding, you will be required to pay a very large fine.

Handheld cell phones cannot legally be used while driving. Ask for a “hands free” device from your cell phone provider if you need to drive and use your phone.

Remember that specific traffic laws vary from state to state. One law to note is that turning right at a red light is permitted in Connecticut after you have stopped completely to make sure it is safe to proceed. In the city of New Haven, however, many intersections will have signs that indicate “NO TURN ON RED.”

Infants and children must use approved child restraint seats in all vehicles until they are over six years of age AND 60 pounds. After children outgrow their car seat, they must ride in a booster seat using a lap and shoulder belt. The law also now requires that infants remain rear-facing until they are 1 year of age AND 20 pounds! Yale Police will install car seats by appointment: Call 432-4400 and ask for Richard Simon.

Headlights must be turned on whenever the windshield wipers are in use — rain or snow, night or day.

When a school bus stops to pick up or drop off children, red flashing lights appear on the bus and a safety arm extends from the bus signalling traffic to stop. All vehicles in both directions must come to a complete stop until the lights are turned off and the safety arm is released.

Getting Your Car Repaired/Checked

Finding a good mechanic is a must for a car owner, and those listed in this handbook have been deemed reliable and affordable by some in the Yale community. For major repairs, you should always shop around. In addition to the listings here, you can ask for recommendations from your friends and colleagues, or if you are a member of AAA (Connecticut Motor Club), you can get a list of AAA approved garages. There are also national chains, such as Firestone, Meineke and Midas where you can get car care services; watch for specials and coupons. National chains sometimes offer deals on routine repairs such as mufflers and brakes.


Parking is limited within New Haven city limits and on or near the Yale campus. Yale Parking & Transit sells monthly passes for the Yale campus lots. Be sure to inquire about parking options when apartment hunting. When parking on the street, read parking signs carefully, or you could receive a fine ($20 and up) and/or your car could get towed ($75 and up). Here are some tips and information about parking:

Downtown New Haven offers a variety of options for garage and meter parking ($.25 for 20 mins.). Detailed information about parking in New Haven, including downloadable maps, can be found under “Travel Tips” at You can pay for meters with coins, pre-purchased parking vouchers, or the Parcxmart Card, which can hold up to $100 in value and be used to pay for shopping or meals in some places. Be careful to abide by the time limits imposed. For example, if it’s a one-hour zone and you plan to be there longer, it is best to move your car to a different space to avoid a ticket and fine ($15).

New Haven residential parking zones, which allow for permit parking, are indicated by signs on the streets. Parking permits ($5 each) can be obtained from the Tax Office (see sidebar for details) and you are entitled to up to two visitors passes for $5 per pass. Pay cash and you will get your permit the day you go. Pay by check and you will wait 15 days after the check clears before you get your permit. To apply bring your car registration, driver’s license and/or a photo ID, and proof of your address such as a lease or utility bill to show that you live in New Haven. You must not owe taxes or fines.

Heed parking bans, snow emergencies and street cleaning schedules or you are likely to be ticketed and towed, even with a valid permit. Signs announcing bans will be posted on trees and poles along the street with as little as 12 hours notice or less. If you get towed, call the police Parking Tag Division, 946-8055 (open until 5pm, Monday through Friday) for instructions on retrieving your car. After 5pm or on weekends, call the police station at 946-6316. You will need at least $75 in cash to get your car back, which will probably be in storage in another town. If you wait too long to retrieve your vehicle, you may incur additional storage fees as well.

If you get a parking ticket, pay promptly or additional fines will be added.


Practical Matters

Related Links

Other Legal Issues

Car Buying Resources

Buying and Selling a Car
Required Forms

Download all of the forms you require for
purchase (or sale) of your car, such as a bill of sale.


Pre-Purchase Auto Check

Firestone Auto
680 Chapel St
Web site

East Rock Auto Repair
1400 State St,


Car Buying and Selling Web sites

Cost Analysis

Used Car Listings

Vehicle History Report

Used Car Dealers

Always be extra cautious when purchasing a used car. Here are some local used car dealers:

121 Frontage Rd,
East Haven,

R&N Motors
336 Putnam Ave

Paul’s Auto Sales
1743 State St


ABC Insurance
2149 State St

A&S Insurance
511 Orange St

DeGenaro Agency

1384 Dixwell Ave

GEICO Direct

Horace Mann
Call Joseph Gaetano

SAFECO, A-Allen Associates

State Farm
1890 Dixwell Ave
Call Chris Bamgboye


Property Tax

In New Haven and surrounding areas, you must pay yearly car taxes and you will be charged additional fees if you pay late. They often do not send out notices, but you are still responsible for paying on time! The tax rate is approximately $44.85 for every $1000 of the assessed value of your car. That’s what they think it’s worth, not what you paid for it. Taxes are due in January or July, depending on when you buy your car.

Tax Collector
City Hall, 165 Church St



Get 24/7 access to Zipcars parked right on campus!


Auto Tech Garage
55 Connolly Parkway
Owner: Todd

East Rock Auto Repair
1400 State St

Paolillo’s Service Station
76 Ashmun St
Owner: Joe
Say you are from Yale

National Chains

Driving Advice

If you are pulled over by the police

Put on your turn signal, and carefully pull over as far to the right as possible. Slowly and safely stop your vehicle. It is very important to keep your hands on the steering wheel, so the officer doesn’t have any reason to think you are reaching for a weapon or trying to hide anything. When the officer approaches, remain calm and be very polite. Roll your window down completely, and let the officer speak first. Don’t take out your identification or get out of your car unless you are asked to do so. For more suggestions go to

Parking Resources

Yale Parking and Transit
155 Whitney Ave
Room 300

New Haven Parking Permits
Tax Office
165 Church St
Open Monday - Friday until 5 p.m.

Saturdays in downtown New Haven park free at the meters, but be sure and obey the time limits, or you may be ticketed.

Sundays and federal holidays always allow free meter parking.

Yale lots are free after 4:30pm on weekdays or all day on Saturdays and Sundays.

Broken Parking Meter?

If a meter is broken, city ordinance requires you to pay with a parking voucher or move your car to another space. To report a malfunctioning meter, call 946-8081 with the meter number, street name and type of problem encountered.

Towed? Know Your Rights

Regulated by the Connecticut General Statutes Title 14 Motor Vehicle Laws.