If you're planning on buying a car, you want to make sure you have all the paperwork in order. Then you can register your new vehicle quickly and easily, and you won't have to worry about any ownership issues.

Along with the title and other paperwork you might need for a legal transfer of vehicle ownership, make sure you get a bill of sale. Here's what a vehicle bill of sale is, and why you really need one for your next used car purchase.

What is a Vehicle Bill of Sale?

Blank bill of sale with a blue and silver pen on top of it.

A bill of sale for a vehicle is a legal document. It provides information about the sale, and it also helps buyers and sellers prove the vehicle was sold. There are some specific details you'll want to include in a bill of sale, to make sure it's seen as valid and contains everything that important about the transaction.

First, you want to include the identifying information for the buyer and the seller. That's usually their names, addresses, and phone numbers. You can also include email addresses or other information if you want, but it's not strictly necessary.

Second, spell out any conditions that are part of the sale. That's especially important if there's something unique to the sale, such as the seller keeping something that would normally go along with the car, or the buyer making payments to the seller.

Third, be sure to include the date of the transfer and the sale price of the vehicle. That way anyone who looks at the document has all the information they need about when the sale occurred, how much it was for, and who was involved with it.

Last, but certainly not least, it's very important that you provide details about the vehicle, too. You can list the year, make, and model, but it's also a good idea to provide the VIN. Also include the odometer reading.

Double-check all the information, and make sure it's accurate. That can make the title transfer easier, and also provide you with more peace of mind. Before you part ways with the seller of the car you just bought, both of you should sign and date the bill of sale.

If you're in Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Maryland, New Hampshire, or West Virginia, you'll both need to sign in front of a notary. If the seller doesn't want to do that, something is going on and you'd be wise to back away from buying that particular vehicle. Trusted sellers want to follow the law, just like you do as the buyer.

Why Do You Need a Vehicle Bill of Sale?

In 16 states, a vehicle bill of sale is required when buying a used car. You may also need a bill of sale when you register a new car, depending on your location. The states listed above require that your bill of sale be notarized, too, so you don't want to just fill it out when you pick up the car.

Instead, you'll need to make sure you're meeting with the seller at a convenient time and place to get the vehicle bill of sale notarized. Then you can take it to title and register the vehicle with confidence. Some buyers and sellers even choose to meet at the DMV, where they can complete everything in one place. That's a great option for people in the same town, but it doesn't work as well if you're buying a car from further away.

The very best thing you can do if you're buying a car from a private seller, is to be sure you understand your specific state's rules and regulations surrounding a vehicle bill of sale. Even if it's not needed in your state, it's still a good idea to have it as extra proof of the sale.

If your state does require it, and you don't have it when you go to register the car, you'll have to go back to the seller and get it at that time. That's not always easy or convenient, and it can delay your ability to get the car titled over to you, so you can drive it.

Because a bill of sale is additional proof of the transaction, it's a good idea to have one, even if your state doesn't require it. It's usually better to have too much paperwork when you go to register the car, rather than not enough.

Bill of sale with a car key on top of it.

Want to Buy Your Next Car Easily and Securely?

Fortunately, you don't have to worry about getting things wrong when you buy through a trusted site. You can use PrivateAuto to safely, simply, and securely buy and/or sell your next car, and even e-sign the bill of sale. Get started today at privateauto.com, and find the used car that works for you.