How to Gift a Car this Holiday Season

And Do Those Big Red Bows Really Exist?

new car gift

The holiday season is upon us—and with it, reminders and hints about how to be the ultimate gift-giver this year. Throughout December, car ads are everywhere we look–we won’t repeat the catchy, impossible to forget taglines–with a special holiday-themed twist: you could go all out and gift a loved one a car. It’s an extravagant and thoughtful gesture, certain to stick in the mind of the receiver for years to come. But cars aren’t like other gifts—they come with legal requirements and that must be sorted out. If you’re going to give someone a car as a gift, you certainly don’t want to ruin the gesture by forgetting necessary details. We’re here to help: below, all of the paperwork you’ll need–and how to save–when giving someone the unforgettable gift of a car this season—and the deal with those big red bows!

How to Gift a Car

The best parts of car-gifting are clear: do your research (covertly, if the receiver lives with you—clear that browser history!), go to the dealership and secure a good price (how-to in the next section), and then try to hide your excitement until the big reveal. But there’s another side to gifting a car: the technical, less flashy, but equally important details about the paperwork you’ll need to have in order.

Cars aren’t like other gifts—they come with legal requirements you'll need to know beforehand.

Sarah Lee Marks, president of My Carlady Automotive Business Services, gave us the paperwork details. Marks, who has been helping customers gift cars during the holiday season for over 20 years, told Quoted the following:

  • If the car is being paid for in cash, and the giver is not on title, the giver needs to secure a picture of the lucky recipient’s driver’s license and current insurance.
  • If the car is over 10K in value, it is likely the dealer will fill out an IRS cash reporting form, in which case the driver’s license of the giver will be required (by law).
  • Some dealers will also require the giver complete a five-line security report, which includes their birthday and social security number (for the purposes of preventing money laundering).

new car present
To that we’ll add:

  • Some states require the giver to fill out additional special forms, like an “Affidavit of Motor Vehicle Gift Transfer” writes that, in most states, the receiver must also fill out most of the tax forms (the details of which, of course, vary state to state).
  • And as for insurance, Marks gave us the lowdown: “Depending on the age and relationship of the giver to the recipient, the car will be covered by the existing insurance policy, as long as it is full coverage or in accordance with the loan company requirements, if there is a lien on the car. In many cases the dealer can put a dealer plate on the car for overnight delivery, and coverage can be added the next morning.”

How to Get a Deal

Many of our previously outlined car-buying tips apply, things like:

  • Manufacturers are particularly motivated to move product during the holiday season, and dealers are therefore often offered extra bonuses, Matt DeLorenzo of told us. So, comparison shop and visit a few dealers and you’re likely to find a good price.
  • Deal with a manager if you can, as they are the ones who decide on prices and they don’t work on commission.
December is one of the best times to buy a car since the current year’s models are often on sale.
  • Don’t get carried away with extras—even though the new car is for a special loved one, really think through each add-on (like extended warranties and paint protection).
  • Former car salesman Sam Carter told Quoted that December is one of the best times to buy a car because the current year’s models are usually on sale–so shop with confidence!


new car gift

And What About That Big Red Bow?

They exist! Well, of course they do, you knew that, but we mean you can actually get one for gift-giving purposes.

Driver Nina Hirsch told Quoted a heart-warming story of the year her husband gifted her a car. Hirsch says:

“My husband rocked the bow on Dec 23, 2009. I still have the car, the bow,
and the hubby!” Her husband “had the salesman place the bow on the car. He had the car wrapped and visible from the street. I laughed and loved it.” Hirsch says she is now looking for another car, “and a precedent has been set.” But more seriously, she says, “It was very sweet and made the gift that much more special. Extra touches count.”

Marks told us of a magical holiday gift-giving experience she helped facilitate:
“I placed a car on the lawn among the outdoor Christmas decorations at midnight, so the recipient saw it when she went out to get the morning paper on Christmas morning. We put a wreath on the car and winter supplied the snowflake dust.”

And how often do people purchase vehicles for loved ones during the holiday season? “I have two orders already for surprises this December. One car is already hiding in storage waiting for Christmas Eve,” Marks shared. By the way, those big red bows will run you anywhere from $35-$300 apiece. If your dealer doesn’t offer one, Golden Openings has you covered.

Have you ever given or received a car during the holiday season? Do you plan to make a gift out of one this year? Share your stories in the comments!