What Paperwork Do I Need To Sell My Car Privately?

For many used car owners, selling privately to another individual is the best way to make a tidy profit and avoid being lowballed by corporate buyers or dealers. But while selling privately can be profitable, you need to have several documents ready to go to facilitate a legal and safe car sale and avoid any extra penalties and fees.

Not sure what paperwork you need to get in order? You’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each document you need to acquire and put into a folder before you proceed with a car sale.

Maintenance Records

Firstly, you’ll need all the maintenance records of your car that you can get your hands on. Maintenance records are everything ranging from oil change reports to mechanic reports to major repair descriptions and more. If you’ve been a responsible car owner, you should have these in a folder or otherwise stored somewhere in your garage or your car. 

Maintenance records are important since they show the potential buyer that the car has been kept in good condition beyond just your word. Some buyers may not just take your word at face value and will require proof that your car is in excellent shape before they will fork over any cash or even do an inspection.

Odometer Disclosure

No matter what state you live in, federal law requires you to have an odometer disclosure statement for a car buyer at the time of sale. It applies to any motor vehicles that are less than 10 years old and that weigh up to 12,000 pounds.

The odometer disclosure includes lots of valuable information, including:

  • The year, make, model, and VIN or vehicle identification number of the car
  • The license plates at the sale
  • The vehicle’s registration
  • The buyer’s name, signature, and address
  • The seller’s signature
  • The odometer reading, which shows the current mileage at the time of sale
  • A notary public signature or seal if necessary

Naturally, you’ll only be able to fill out some of the odometer disclosure early. But you should have this paperwork ready to go and bring a pen with you to the car sale so you and the buyer can fill out the remaining details. You’ll need the buyer’s signature to finish the deal with a signed title.

You cannot fill out the odometer or vehicle mileage part of the odometer disclosure ahead of time. If you do so, you could get in trouble should the buyer decide to sue you for one reason or another in the future.

Notice of Transfer

You’ll also need a notice of transfer. Also called a release of liability, a notice of transfer protects you from liabilities after the car sale (so you aren’t, for example, on the hook for repairing the car if it gets into an accident as it pulls out of the sale lot).

The notice of transfer can be acquired from your DMV after you notify the organization about the upcoming transaction. Note that certain states require different things on their notices of transfer (and some states don’t require notices of transfer altogether). Even if you live in one of the latter states, you should still get one to protect yourself from legal issues.

Title

Don’t forget the title of the car you plan to sell! Whoever owns the title legally has ownership of the vehicle. If you have a leased vehicle, the title will be in the hands of a lienholder, like a bank. If that’s the case, you’ll need to figure out how to sell your leased vehicle, which often involves paying the bank the loan amount with your sale proceeds or transferring the loan to the new owner.

If you own the car outright, you should have possession of the title. If your car doesn’t have a title for whatever reason (for example, if it was lost or if the car is very old), you can usually request a new certificate of title at your state’s DMV. In most cases, this just requires filling out a title request form and paying a minor fee.

Bill of Sale

The bill of sale isn’t technically required, but it’s always recommended – even if you want to sell your used car quickly. In a nutshell, it’s a written record that documents any terms and conditions of the sale in writing. It’s another record you can use to prove that you didn’t do anything wrong if the car buyer has an issue or accuses you of cheating them.

Bills of sale usually include details like the purchase price, delivery date, vehicle description, and signatures of the buyer and seller. You can download bill of sale templates online or get one from the DMV office for your state.

Warranty Documentation (Optional)

Depending on how covered you want to be against future liability, there are several optional documents you could collect. One of these is warranty documentation. This only applies if your car has a transferable warranty. In some cases, you could use this to justify increasing the asking price for the car.

If you decide to transfer the warranty to the new owner, you need to have the warranty documentation in hand. This should include contact information for the warranty providers of the new buyer can make sure the warranty policy is refiled under their name.

As-Is Documentation (Optional)

“As-is” documentation notes that there aren’t any implied warranties for the car you’re selling. It also guarantees that the buyer acknowledges that he or she has decided to accept any future responsibility for the maintenance and/or repair of the car. Again, this just helps to protect you from being liable for future repair costs.

Vehicle History Report (Optional)

Some buyers may request a vehicle history report. This is similar to the above-mentioned maintenance report, though it may include additional details, such as all previous sales, adjustments or modifications to the vehicle, emissions testing reports, certifications, whether the car was a trade-in, and more. 

The vehicle history report is usually only necessary for older cars that may have changed hands many times in the past, particularly sports vehicles or vintage vehicles.

Check for State-Specific Document Requirements

Lastly, be sure to see if your state has any specific documentation requirements. For example, California car owners must get a smog certification test and report for their vehicle before selling it to another driver. Smog check tests can be done at a variety of testing stations throughout the state. They can be added to the vehicle record.

Some states don’t have very many extra documentation requirements. Double-check with your state’s DMV to make sure you aren’t liable for fines in the future.

Summary

At the end of the day, getting all of the above paperwork together before you make your car sale will help the transaction go down much more smoothly. Plus, it’s important to have this paperwork in order so you can sell your car privately without getting fined later.

Once you sell your car, you may need some rental wheels to get around or commute to work. Advantage Rent-a-Car can help. As affordable and licensed car renters in your area, we can help you get back to the road in no time. Check out our fleet or sign up for a rental today!

Sources:
1 Odometer Disclosure Why is an odometer disclosure required? The Truth in Mileage Act (TIMA) is a federal law that requires the | Department of Transportation
Smog Inspections | California DMV
Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability | California DMV