What paperwork do you need to sell your car to a private party?

selling your carAlright, it’s time to get rid of your old beater. Maybe the dealer didn’t offer you enough for trade in. Or maybe you just need some room in the driveway. Either way, selling a car yourself usually allows you to get a higher price. So place that ad, and start taking phone calls!

Obviously, you need to have the car thoroughly cleaned & detailed before you show it. A dirty car tells a would-be buyer that you don’t care about it anymore (Translation: There’s something wrong with it). And while that might be true, it’s usually going to cause the buyer to think less of the car. Which in-turn, causes them to offer you less money. Many serious buyers will jump on a car that’s been well taken care of, so you want to give that impression.

Another thing that can help bolster your vehicle’s image is the service history. Dig through the glovebox and your files, gathering all the receipts that you can find. Tires, oil changes, a new battery, and any repairs that you’ve had done. That big stack of receipts proves that you’ve taken care of the vehicle. And that can sometimes help to turn a “I’m going to think about it” (see: No), into an “I’ll take it”.

As far as paperwork, you’re obviously going to need the title. Read it carefully, and follow the instructions on where/how to sign it. Each state is different, and some require a notary to witness your signature. If that’s the case, find a Notary Public before the buyer gets there. You don’t want them to get cold feet as you frantically try to find one at the last minute. Check with your bank to see if they have a notary available, or ask them where to find one.

You’re also going to need a Bill of Sale to give the buyer. It should clearly list your name (or the registered owner), the buyer’s name, the date, a description of the vehicle (including the VIN number is always a good idea), and the sale price. You’ll also need to sign the bill of sale at the bottom.

 Example of a Bill of Sale:


I John Smith living at 123 Easy St. Mayberry, NC hereby sell one 2009 WhizBang BlingBuggy VIN # WXYZ987654321 with the current mileage of 100,001 miles, to John Doe of 458 Ingalls Cir. Walnut Grove, MO for $16,700


<Signed and dated by both parties>

You can usually find printable bills of sale on your state’s DMV website, along with detailed information on the private party sales process in your state. Or you can use this bill of sale template.

Selling a car that’s still financed

If a finance company still holds the title, you need to call them to get the payoff amount and to understand the process that you’re about to go through to transfer ownership to the buyer. Typically, you’ll have to pay off the loan, then the finance company will send you the title. Once you’ve received the title from the finance company, you’ll be able to officially sign the car over to the buyer.

If you’ve already paid the vehicle off, and have received the title from the finance company, make sure you have appropriate Lien Release documentation to give the buyer. Otherwise, they won’t be able to register the car. And you’ll probably have a very pissed off buyer on your hands.

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