We contacted the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to see if a 17 year old minor is permitted by state laws to purchase, register and insure a motor vehicle in their name only. The RMV representative responded that yes, that someone under the age of 18 could purchase a car and register and title it solely in their name in Massachusetts, so yes a 17 year old can sign their name as the buyer on the title.
The RMV lists the first 2 steps of registering a car as 1 - Have the dealer complete and sign an Application for Registration and Title (RMV-1). Then 2 - You then must go to a licensed Massachusetts insurance agent to obtain an active insurance policy and have the agent stamp and sign the RMV-1 application. The last step of the registration process is to take the completed RMV-1 application and supporting documents to the nearest full service RMV center.
Keep in mind that there may be some dealerships and private parties however that are would prefer not to do business with a minor due to contract law. A minor has the right to enter into a contract (both verbal and written) however the minor may set aside the contract before they reach the age of majority (18). The adult who makes the contract is bound to the contract terms. So a minor at their discretion can typically void a contract and thus there are those that are leery of selling a car to them without a parent or guardian also signing on the contract.
Buying insurance on your own as a 17 year old may also be an issue. If you are able to obtain insurance as a teenager on your own is up to the guidelines of the individual MA insurance companies the RMV noted. In general auto insurance companies do not allow minors, those under the age of 18, to sign on a policy without a parent or legal guardian since it is a legal contract. The insurance company wants to protect themselves in that laws usually allow minors to get out of contracts if they request to do so are they were under 18 when the contract was signed. Thus with a parent or guardian signing on as well the contract can be enforced with the parental party if the teen tries to back out of it.
So if you are under the age of 18 in Massachusetts you can purchase, register and title a car in your name but will typically need a parent or guardian to sign on with you to obtain an insurance policy for the car. As we mentioned above obtaining insurance is part of the registration process in MA so you would need to get insurance on your car before you are able to register it.
At CarInsurance.com you can see what your auto insurance rates would be in MA as a young teen driver.