10 Steps to Sell Your Car Privately

Sell your used car to a private buyer and pocket more than a dealer trade-in could get you. We lay out the pro tips you need to price, advertise, screen buyers, negotiate, paperwork, and get paid.

Follow these 10 steps to maximize your sale price while avoiding headaches:
Let’s get to it!

One: Gather Documents

You can’t sell your car without the proper documentation. Take time to gather it up well in advance so you aren’t scrambling to find it when you need it most. While different states may require different paperwork, these are the documents you’ll typically need:

1. Certificate of Title
2. Vehicle history report (optional but recommended)
3. Bill of sale (mandatory in some states, recommended in all)
4. Release of liability form
5. Odometer disclosure form
Get started by entering your vehicle's VIN number
License plate
A valid VIN or License plate is required to list your car on PrivateAuto. Learn more


Your car’s title is the most critical document. It proves you’re the owner, and after you transfer the title to the buyer, it will prove that they are the owner.

If you’ve forgotten where you’ve stored your vehicle title, give yourself some time to find it before listing your car for sale.

If you can’t find it, get a replacement title ASAP.

Replacing a lost vehicle title is a straightforward process:

Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles or visit their website to begin the replacement title application.
There is typically a small fee of around $25 to obtain a duplicate title.
You'll need to provide your ID, VIN, current registration, and possibly an odometer disclosure statement with the current mileage.
After submitting the application, the DMV will mail you a new title in your name, typically within 2 weeks.

Once you have the replacement title in hand, listing you as the owner, you can sign it over to the buyer when selling your car, just like with any other title transfer.

Vehicle History Report

While a vehicle history report is not mandatory, it can certainly give potential buyers peace of mind. It covers ownership history and service records and demonstrates how well you’ve cared for your car.

We provide a vehicle history report for all premium listings when you sell your car on PrivateAuto.

Here are some reasons why a vehicle history report is such a good idea:

1. It demonstrates you have nothing to hide. Providing a report shows transparency and proactively addresses any concerns about the vehicle's history.
2. It builds trust and credibility as a seller. A detailed report proves you're forthcoming about the car's background.
3. It verifies maintenance and repairs. A history report lists service records, oil changes, major repairs, and other work.
4. It can justify your asking price. Documentation of new tires, battery, regular maintenance, etc. helps support pricing.
5. It highlights that the car was well cared for. Regular servicing and repairs indicate responsible ownership.
6. It can ease buyer concerns about accidents or damage. The report documents any collisions or insurance claims.
7. It avoids headaches later if issues arise. A thorough history provides proof if questions arise after purchase.
8. It makes your car stand out. Providing a report shows your willingness to go the extra mile as a seller.

Bill of Sale

Many states require a bill of sale when you legally relinquish ownership of a vehicle to another person.

Whether or not your state requires it, a bill of sale is a really smart idea. It protects you in case the buyer ever wants to contest the sale or any of the specifics of the sale. It memorializes the VIN, selling price, vehicle mileage, and other key details—and it has the buyer’s signature.

PrivateAuto makes it easy with an official bill of sale right in our app, specific to your state. You and the buyer simply review the details, then digitally sign the bill of sale after the buyer inspects the vehicle. No printing or scanning; simply sign electronically in the PrivateAuto app. You always have it as a record if you ever need it.

Release of Liability Form

File a release of liability form when selling privately. This notifies your state that you no longer own the vehicle. It protects you from legal and financial liability for the car after the transfer. It releases you from responsibility if the vehicle is damaged or involved in an accident after you close the sale.

In most areas of the U.S., you’ll need to contact the DMV to file the release of liability, but in some locales, you may need to file with the Department of Revenue or the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Odometer Disclosure Form

Per the federal Truth in Mileage Act, private sellers must reveal in writing the exact mileage of the car at the moment of transfer of ownership.

Never round up or estimate when filling out this document. Both you and the buyer will need to sign this at the time of sale.

Two: Set Your Asking Price

Research what your vehicle will sell for, using a tool such as Kelley Blue Book to determine the fair market value (FMV). Then decide whether to set your asking price:

1. A bit higher than FMV, hoping a prospective buyer is willing to pay more.
2. Right at the suggested FMV.
3. Below FMV for a quick sale.

Set your price lower if you’re in a hurry to sell your car; higher if you’ve got plenty of time and are willing to wait.

Three: Make Your Car Look Good

Private buyers are willing to pay more for a car that looks and smells good. The most obvious way to spruce up the appearance of your used car is to get it detailed.

You can erase shallow scratches with an artist brush and a small vial of matching body paint, which you can purchase fairly cheaply at most dealerships. You can also pop out small dents and dings with inexpensive at-home repair kits.

Read the instructions or watch an instructional video before you attempt to use these tools, as using them incorrectly can sometimes make matters worse.

Last but not least, don’t forget the air freshener. Scent marketing is a very real thing, and studies show that the “new car smell” increases sales of vehicles.

Four: List Your Car

It's time to list your vehicle for sale. You’ll need to choose a platform. You want one that fits the following criteria:

Self-serve technology gives you convenience and security
An intuitive dealflow takes you through every step of selling your vehicle
In-app messaging and scheduling keeps your personal information private
An integrated payment gateway lets you receive large sums of money instantly and fee-free

In other words, you want a fully transactional online marketplace that gives you end-to-end tools to get the deal done.

What Is a Transactional Marketplace?

PrivateAuto is the only automotive marketplace with full transactionality. Other listing sites, in contrast, are “meetingplaces”: they connect a buyer and seller but leave them to blunder through the transaction process, cobbling it together with outside tools.

PrivateAuto offers the following transactional features:

Secure encryption to protect your sensitive info
In-app messaging and test drive scheduling so you never have to give out your email or phone number
Instant payments so you get your funds at the time of the test drive and can forgo an escrow service
Identity verification to weed out fraudsters
In-app signing of the bill of sale
A super smooth transaction workflow that guides you and the buyer through every step
The ability for buyers to verify funds so you can avoid tire-kickers
…and much more

What Is PrivateAuto Pay?

We got tired of inconvenient, expensive, and frustrating fund transfers. So we created a way to securely and instantly receive payment for your car.

PrivateAuto Pay is our built-in banking integration that enables instant, secure, and fee-free funds transfers up to $1M. It’s a dream come true for car sellers.

Your PrivateAuto Pay account is actually a bank account that you own, accessed via your PrivateAuto profile.
Easily move money between your PrivateAuto Pay account and your external bank account via a balance transfer.
Receive up to $1 million instantly from the seller into your PrivateAuto Pay account.
Instant payments arrive any time of day, every day of the year.
No exchange of contact information or banking info.
Encrypted info protects your data from hackers.
Conclude the entire transaction when you meet the buyer for a test drive.
Sell a car to a remote buyer and forgo costly and inconvenient escrow services.

What if I Want to Sell My Car on Another Platform?

PrivateAuto is the best place to sell your car because of our transactional features, but we admittedly don’t have the reach of larger sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. For sellers listing their cars for sale on other sites, we’ve created DealNow.

You skip the listing process and go straight to closing the transaction with the power of PrivateAuto Pay. Here’s how it works:

1. Invite the buyer to DealNow via a custom link.
2. Enjoy identity verification, in-app messaging, and a test drive scheduling feature (none of which require you to exchange contact info).
3. Meet the buyer and let the buyer drive your car.
4. You and the buyer go together through a step-by-step transaction process in which you each confirm relevant details right in the PrivateAuto mobile app. From mileage to the VIN to the condition of the vehicle, we help you both prevent any errors.
5. You and the buyer each electronically sign an official bill of sale. This is stored in your PrivateAuto account as a legal record you can refer to down the road.
6. The buyer is prompted to initiate payment.
7. You get a notification of funds received and confirm receipt of payment.
8. You sign over the car title and hand over the keys.

DealNow is so smooth, so safe, and so fast that you’ll never want to sell a car without it. No matter where you find your buyer—from eBay Motors to Autotrader to the friend of a friend—DealNow will help you get the deal done and get paid, right now.

Five: Choose a Buyer

When you start getting interest in your car, you’ll need to efficiently screen prospects. We built PrivateAuto to be a self-serve transactional platform, and nowhere is this more evident than in the vetting and negotiation stage.

Unlike other listing sites, PrivateAuto allows potential buyers to make an offer on your car. This can drum up a lot more activity. As a seller, you have all the power in your hands, with full control in one easy dashboard. You can reject lowball offers, make a counteroffer if an offer is in the ballpark, or accept an offer that you like.

If a buyer has a question about your vehicle, they can message you in the app.

All of this negotiation is built into the PrivateAuto workflow. You never give out your contact info, and you can opt to deal only with verified buyers.

Once you’ve settled on a buyer, it’s time to schedule the test drive.

Six: Meet For The Test Drive

On other sites, you'd have to endure lots of messaging back-and-forth to get the test drive nailed down. In the process, you’d be sharing your personal contact info with a stranger. It’s time for a better way.

Our handy in-app scheduler allows you and the buyer to conveniently arrange the ideal time and public meetup spot.

1. You choose the location and specify some available time slots.
2. The buyer selects from your available time slots and schedules the test drive, with no input needed from you.
3. You meet up and get the deal done.

You control the entire process securely through your PrivateAuto dashboard. You can opt to deal with only verified buyers, so you can feel confident meeting them for a test drive.

Seven: Sign the Bill of Sale

The bill of sale is a pivotal document when selling your car privately. It legally confirms the ownership transfer from seller to buyer.

But in private sales, you don’t know the buyer. Should you sign the bill of sale before payment? Or could that leave you high and dry without the cash?

With PrivateAuto, you don’t have to worry about payment timing or the order of operations. Our process protects both parties in an orchestrated, step-by-step workflow.

Here’s how it plays out:

1. Inspect vehicle together, then both you and the buyer electronically sign bill of sale in our mobile app
2. Both of you get notified that the other party has signed the bill of sale
3. Buyer is notified to release payment, and feels confident doing so, given that you have signed a legally binding document
4. Payment immediately appears in your PrivateAuto Pay account
5. You confirm payment, then sign title over to buyer

No delays. We make it easy to get paid quickly with legal protections in place.
Selling a car privately doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking.

Eight: Get Paid

It’s time to get paid for your car. Simple? Only if you’re using PrivateAuto Pay. Otherwise, it’s anything but easy.

Cash: inconvenient and risky
Check: inconvenient and slow
Bank transfer: inconvenient and slow, with fees
Peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo or Paypal: transaction limits, sometimes fees (inconvenient)

PrivateAuto Pay is so easy, so secure, and so convenient that you’ll never do a deal without it.

Nine: Remove Your License Plates

In 48 out of 50 states, you must remove your license plates when selling your car.
California and Minnesota are the exceptions—they allow plates to stay with the vehicle when ownership transfers.

Detach your plates after the sale is completed, before the buyer drives away with the car. Keep them to put on your next car (if your state allows), or turn them in to the DMV. Check your state's rules for what to do with old license plates to be sure you're following protocol.

Removing your plates yourself ensures you don't receive tickets or violations on a vehicle you no longer own.

Ten: Transfer the Title and Hand Over the Keys

You're nearing the finish line! After removing your license plates, it's time to officially transfer the title to the buyer and hand over the keys.

Carefully fill out the certificate of title with the buyer, ensuring all relevant fields are completed and all information is accurate. You and the buyer will each sign in the appropriate fields.

Sign your name, transferring ownership to the buyer.

Give the completed title to the buyer and hand over the keys. Your work here is done.
Image highlighting Selling Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Would You Like to Sell Your Car on PrivateAuto?

Ready to sell your car? It's easy. Here’s how the PrivateAuto selling process works:

1. You create an account on PrivateAuto.
2. You list your car with our easy, step-by-step guided process.
3. You set your pricing and terms and screen would-be buyers.
4. You vet incoming offers and choose a buyer.
5. You meet the buyer for a test drive.
5. You and the buyer e-sign documents from your PrivateAuto mobile app.
6. You get paid instantly.

So easy.
Looking to buy a car? Shop used cars for sale by owner and find the ride of your dreams today!

FAQ on Selling a Car

How much should I sell my car for?

Using one or more of the used car value guides, you can get an idea of what your car is worth. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call this the Blue Book value, even though you may have used the other guides as well.

How you price your car is going to depend on:

- How quickly you want to sell. If you want to get rid of your car quickly, price it lower than the Blue Book or Fair Market value. If you’re in no hurry, you might price it a bit higher and wait to see what offers come in.
- What upgrades you’ve added. For example, if you’ve had a better sound system installed, that could increase the car's value.
- The prices of similar used cars near you. Look at a few car-selling sites and search for your make and model. Limit the search to a 25-mile radius of your zip code. If it looks like cars are going for more than the Blue Book value, you can likely get a higher price as well. Remember, car shoppers look to private sellers to get a better price than at the dealership. Compare prices from other private sellers.

How does PrivateAuto help me manage offers when I sell my car?

How does PrivateAuto vet sellers?

Does PrivateAuto provide the necessary paperwork for a successful transfer of ownership?

How secure is PrivateAuto Pay?

What is the best site for private car sales?