Buying & Owning a Car

Checklist for Buying a Car

Know yourself

Before you look at a car, look at your own finances and determine how much you are comfortable spending on a car. If you plan on borrowing money to pay for the car, apply for a loan before you make an offer or go to a dealership. Once you know how much you are willing to spend on a car, stick to it.

Know the car

If you have narrowed your search down to a specific model, check the fair market value of the car on This will give you negotiating leverage to get the best price on your car. If you have narrowed your search to a particular car, you should test drive it before making an offer on it. You should also ask a mechanic to examine the car for potential problems. Be aware that used cars are sold "as is" meaning there are no warranties. It is up to you to find any problems with the car. It is up to you to find any problems with the car, so take the car to a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection.

Know the seller

If you are buying from a dealer, look up their rating from the Better Business Bureau. If they have a poor or nonexistent rating, consider buying from a more reputable dealer. If you are buying from an individual seller, only buy from a local individual. If you buy a car from someone who does not live near Lincoln, it will be difficult to solve any problems that may come up.
For more information on buying a car, see the Student Legal Services Legal Handbook.

Checklist for Driving in the United States

To legally drive in the United States, the driver must be licensed and insured, and the car must be registered.

Driver's License:

You generally must have a Nebraska Class O Driver's license to drive a car here. You may be able to obtain a Learner's Permit before a getting Driver's License, but be aware that this is not a full license and driving restrictions apply.


In the United States, there are different levels of car insurance. Liability is the minimum you must have. It will only cover damage to the other person's car if you cause an accident. Collision will cover damage to your car if you cause an accident. Comprehensive will cover damages to your car from things like vandalism, theft, hail, etc.


After buying a car, you have thirty days to register and license the car.

I was in an accident. What now?

If you hit a parked car and no one is in the car, you must leave a note with your name and phone number on a visible place on the vehicle. You should also, without unnecessary delay, report the collision, by telephone or otherwise, to the Lincoln Police Department non-emergency number (402) 441-6000 or if on campus, to the UNLPD non-emergency number (402) 472-2222. If you do not, you are subject to criminal charges. 
If you are in any other kind of accident, do not admit fault. Call the police, and then call your insurance agent. As a student, you can call Student Legal Services to set up an appointment with attorney if you have any questions.