What Paperwork Do I Need to Sell My Car Privately?

You're better off selling your car on the private market instead of selling it to a dealer. For one thing, you'll get a lot more money for it. You'll also need to manage the documentation associated with the private sale process. Don't worry: it's not that bad.

Here’s what paperwork you need to sell your car privately (and how PrivateAuto makes the process easy, secure, and fast).
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Documentation Doesn’t Vary Based on Payment Type

Required documentation doesn't change based on the payment method you choose to accept. Whether you're accepting cash, a cashier’s check, or some other form of payment, you’ll still need the exact same set of documents.

For example, just because you're getting paid via cashier's check, that doesn't mean the bank records will suffice for recording the sale. Always read up on what your state requires before you list your car for sale.
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What Documents Do You Need to Sell a Car Privately?

The documents you need to sell a car differ from state to state. Most states require at least two documents:
1. Certificate of Title
2. Release of Liability

Some states require additional documents, such as a bill of sale. No matter your state, PrivateAuto helps you keep track of all the documents and makes the process quick, simple, and intuitive.

Certificate of Title

The most important document you need is a proof of ownership called the Certificate of Title. It’s legal proof that you own the vehicle and have the right to sell it.

If you still owe on a car loan, the car title will have a lien, meaning the bank has the right to take possession of the car if you stop making payments on the loan. It’s best to pay off any car loans and sell with a clean title.

If you plan to use money from the sale to pay off the loan, you won’t be able to transfer ownership of the car’s title until you pay it off and get a lien release. So, you'll need to inform the buyer accordingly.

When selling, you’ll need to complete the notice of transfer section on the title. In most states, the notice of transfer section is on the back of the certificate. In a few states, you might find it on the front side, usually at the bottom.

Typically, the info you need to include is:

Your name and address
Buyer’s name and address
Odometer reading (cars 10 years and older are exempt)
Signatures of both you and the buyer

Check with your local DMV to see if your state requires you to have the signatures notarized.

Odometer Disclosure

Most of the time, you won’t need a separate document for the odometer disclosure because the odometer reading on the title will do. However, if there’s no room for it on the title, you’ll need a separate Odometer Disclosure statement. Some states may also require a separate odometer disclosure form. Check your local DMV website for the form that meets your state’s requirements.

Service Records

Service records aren’t required by law, but they help reveal the true value of your car. Typically, car values are higher for vehicles that are regularly maintained and have proof of it in the form of maintenance records.

Car buyers also feel more confident buying from a private party if they show that they’ve kept up with routine maintenance by having maintenance records. If you have "full service records available," you should emphasize that in your listing.

PrivateAuto provides a vehicle history report with every premium listing, so potential buyers can feel confident about your vehicle's service history and other issues.

Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report reveals important info about your car’s past, such as:

Accidents reported
Vehicle reported stolen
Fire or flood damage
Total loss insurance claim
Odometer discrepancies
Other vital info

Similar to the inspection report and service records, a vehicle history report helps build trust with potential buyers. We've partnered with AutoCheck for vehicle history reports.

Warranty Documents

When selling a car privately, your offer might be more attractive if you have a transferable used car warranty:

Remaining factory warranty documents: Many factory warranties can transfer to a new owner. Usually, transfers only apply to warranties originally issued for 5 years or less. Warranties with longer terms, such as 10-year, 10,000-mile drivetrain warranty, only apply to the original owner.
Extended warranty documents: Even though it’s called a warranty, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines third-party warranties as a service contract. These are agreements where another party pays for repairs. These contracts typically last for 3 years, 5 years, or 7 years. You can transfer most service contracts to a new owner for the same car.
Mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI): This is sometimes called an extended warranty, even though it doesn’t meet the FTC definition. You will pay a monthly premium to cover certain types of mechanical and electrical failures. Some policies closely match a factory bumper-to-bumper warranty.

State and Local Documents

Many states require cars to get emissions testing once a year or once every two years. In some states, a car is required display a decal on the lower part of the windshield to show that it passes inspection. Usually, the inspection is transferable to the new owner.

California requires every buyer to get a smog test and have a smog certification when applying for a title. New Mexico requires an emissions inspection report when purchasing or transferring ownership in Bernalillo County, and Arizona requires the same for vehicles in Tucson and Phoenix.

As a seller, if your car has recently passed required inspections in your state, have the proof of said inspection ready for the buyer.

Bill of Sale

Some states require a bill of sale for a private-party car transaction, while others don't. Even in states that don’t require a bill of sale, it’s still a good idea to have one. It shows legal proof of the terms and conditions of the sale, in case the buyer ever wants to contest the transaction or any part of it.

PrivateAuto provides an official bill of sale in our app. At the appropriate stage in the transaction, you and the buyer will each be prompted to sign it on your phone. After you've both signed, the buyer will feel secure releasing payment to you because you've signed a legally binding document.

For those few states that require a notarized bill of sale (see list below), visit your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website to download the state-approved form, fill it out, and go to a notary public with the buyer to have it notarized.

States Requiring a Bill of Sale

New York
Rhode Island
South Dakota
West Virginia

States Requiring a Notarized Bill of Sale

New Hampshire
West Virginia

Release of Liability

After transfer of ownership, you need to inform the state that you no longer own the vehicle. This is important because you can be held liable if the new owner:

Fails to get liability insurance
Is in an accident
Abandons the vehicle
Uses the car while committing a crime

Most states will have you submit a release of liability form. You’ll want to turn it in right away so that you aren’t held accountable for the actions of the new owner. You’ll need to include:

Your name and contact information
The name and contact information of the person who purchased the car
The car's license plate number
The car's make, model, year, and color
The vehicle identification number (VIN)
The reading on the odometer at the time of the sale
The date of the title transfer

Many states let you complete the form online while others may have you download a PDF form or pick one up at an office location. You can either submit it online, mail it in, or deliver it in person to your local office. For details on how to submit the liability release in your state, it’s best to check with your local DMV office.

Paperwork Is Easy with PrivateAuto

When you list your car for sale on PrivateAuto, you get state-specific documents that you can complete and sign using the PrivateAuto app.

Your listing comes with other great benefits as well, like a secure communications platform, the ability to easily manage offers, a printable window brochure, a test drive scheduler, and more. Plus, you get free tips for private-party car transactions in your state.

Selling Your Vehicle Online Has Never Been Easier

Selling your vehicle privately doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re organized, have your paperwork in order, and use PrivateAuto for the transaction, it should be a breeze.

Usually, you’ll need a Certificate of Title, Bill of Sale, and Release of Liability, but every state's requirements are different. Fortunately, PrivateAuto helps keep the paperwork and the entire sales process simple.

If you're ready to sell, go ahead and create your listing! It's fast, easy, and you'll get all the help you need along the way.

The PrivateAuto Advantage

Here’s what makes PrivateAuto the best place to sell your used vehicle:

Buyer and Seller Identity Verification

Avoid scammers with email, phone, and drivers license verification, including facial recognition technology.

Low Seller Fees

Our listing fee is a one-time payment of just $150. For that price, you get a vehicle advertisement listing that will stay up on our app until you sell the vehicle at no additional cost.

Fast and Secure In-App Messaging

You don’t have to share your information with the buyer in order to communicate. All communication is done through the messaging integration on our app.

Scheduling Made Easy

Schedule a test drive with the buyer through our useful scheduling feature. No more messaging back and forth for hours to determine when you’re both free.

Sign Documents Through Our App

You can sign documents necessary to make the sale right from your phone, thanks to our e-sign feature. Plus, with our shared documents feature, you’ll be able to locate the paperwork needed after the sale quickly and easily.

Integrated Banking System

Our integrated banking system, PrivateAuto Pay, is the safest, fastest, and most convenient way to get paid for your car. You’ll receive the payment instantaneously, with no fees attached, any time of day or any day of the year.

FAQ on Private Car Sales

How do I replace a lost title?

If you’ve misplaced the title, or it’s been stolen or damaged, you can replace the car title by requesting a duplicate title. You can usually do this in a few simple steps:

1. Identify your state’s motor vehicle authority
It’s usually called the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV. Some states may call it by a different name, such as the Registry of Motor Vehicles or the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. In some states, motor vehicle authority falls under another department, such as the Department of Revenue or the Secretary of State.
2. Complete the proper form
You’ll likely find the forms in a PDF format on your state’s website. They’re usually formatted so that you can fill it out on your computer or device before printing.
3. Submit the form and pay the fee
You might be able to submit the form and pay for the fee online if you live in:

- District of Columbia
- Indiana
- Maine
- Maryland
- Massachusetts
- Michigan
- New York
- South Carolina
- Virginia
- Wisconsin

In other states, you will need to submit the form and the payment by mail or in person.

Who pays the sales tax on a used car?

What is the safest method of payment when selling a car?

Should you accept a cashier’s check when selling a car?

How to protect yourself when selling a car privately?

How does PrivateAuto vet buyers and sellers?

How to sell a car quickly?

Is selling a car privately for cash a good idea?

What are the most popular vehicles sold in private sales?

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