North Carolina Auto Dealer License

Whether you're entering the market as a seasoned professional or as a newcomer, understanding the licensing process is crucial for sustainable success.

This comprehensive guide aims to help you obtain a North Carolina Auto Dealer License, offering valuable insights. We'll walk you through the process of the application procedures, regulatory requirements, and key considerations.

How to get your Auto Dealer License

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Who Needs a NC Auto Dealer License?

You need to get a North Carolina auto dealer license if, in a 12-month period you buy, sell (or attempt to sell), display, or exchange at least 5 motor vehicles in your name.

Additionally, you may not sell any cars that aren’t registered under your name without a dealer license. Dealer licensing is handled by the Department of Transportation.

How to Get a North Carolina Auto Dealer License


Determine Which Type of License You Need

Navigating the landscape of auto dealer licenses in North Carolina requires a clear understanding of the specific type that aligns with your business goals. To determine the right license for you, consider factors such as the nature of your automotive sales, whether you’ll be selling new or used vehicles, and the scale of your operations. These are the auto dealer licenses available in North Carolina:

  • New Motor Vehicle Dealer License: Allows you to sell new and used vehicles.
  • Used Motor vehicle Dealer: Allows you to sell only used vehicles.
  • Wholesaler License: Allows you to distribute/sell used vehicles to car dealers.
  • Distributor License: Allows you to distribute/sell new vehicles to new car dealers.
  • Manufacturer License: Required for those that assemble/manufacture vehicles or import new motor vehicles through a distributor with the intent to further distribute.

You can find more information about the different types of dealer licenses in the regulation manual or by contacting The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Dealer Unit (DMV) at (919) 715-7000.


Obtain a Permanent Business Location

Establishing a compliant business location for an auto dealership involves meeting specific criteria.

  • An established salesroom with at least 96 sq ft of floor space (excluding wholesalers).
  • For wholesalers only: An established office with at least 96 sq ft of floor space. When based in a residential building, it must be separate from any living quarters with a separate entrance. 
  • A sign that has letters of at least three inches in height.
  • Space to securely store business records and files. 

Make sure the established office and/or salesroom are in compliance with all state, county and municipal zoning regulations and ordinances.


Attend a Pre-Licensing Course (Used Motor Vehicle Dealers Only)

Used motor vehicle dealers must complete a 12-hour licensing course approved by the DMV before applying for their license. This course must be completed within the 12-month period before your application date.


Obtain a Liability Insurance

Comprehensive liability insurance covering your dealer plates is required. Your provider and policy number must be included on your application.

Auto Dealer Insurance

There are several types of insurance coverages that are recommended for auto dealers, but the recommended coverage will vary based on your business and personal needs.


Obtain an Auto Dealer Bond

The cost of a North Carolina auto dealer bond is a small percentage of the total bond amount. This percentage can vary between 1% and 10% of the bond amount, which means you can get bonded for as little as $250, should you have stellar financials.

The bond amounts required are the following: 

  • $50,000 for one established salesroom
  • $25,000 for any additional salesrooms

Caroline, one of our customers, was uncertain about the type of license she needed for her North Carolina auto dealership. While researching details, she discovered JW Surety Bonds’ page online where she found accurate information on pricing and procedures. With her decision finalized, Caroline reached out to us to secure a North Carolina auto dealer bond.

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Compile the Required Documents

Depending on how the business is going to operate, you must compline to following information:

  • If the business will operate under any name different from the owners: An assumed business name must be filled with the Register of Deeds in the county where the business is maintained.
  • If the business will operate as a corporation: You need to file articles of incorporation with the North Carolina Secretary of State

Also, a Trader's License from the municipality and county must be obtained before filing your application.


Arrange for a Business Location Inspection

All dealerships must arrange a location inspection. This will be approved by an agent of the License and Theft Bureau before your application is submitted.


Submit Your North Carolina Auto Dealer License Application

Once you have all documents required and your location has been approved, you are ready to send your completed application with the required documents and fees.

How Much Does a North Carolina Auto Dealer License Cost?

The cost for a NC dealer license will vary on a case-to-case basis, but here are some base fees to consider.

  • $90.00 for a dealer license certificate
  • $38.75 per plate for the first five dealer license plates
  • $19.50 per plate for additional plates
  • $25.00 for 25 temporary markers
  • $325.00 dealer licensing class

Once all fees are paid, send the corresponding documents to the address below:

North Carolina Department of Transportation
Division of Motor Vehicles
3129 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Dealers License in NC?

Once your auto dealer application is completed and submitted, it takes approximately 1 – 2 weeks to process. The dealer application is available online.

When Do You Need to Renew Your License?

You must renew your license annually through the North Carolina Department of Transportation form, and it remains valid for 12 months from the date of issuance. Failure to renew will result in its expiration, rendering you unable to legally operate your dealership. Ensure timely completion of your renewal paperwork to avoid any disruptions.

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