What paperwork do I need to sell my car privately? There are countless advantages to selling your car to a private party rather than trading in at a dealer. For one thing, your car’s value on the private market is higher than the dealer’s wholesale price. That means you can put thousands of dollars more in your pocket with a little time and effort. Of course, the car buying and selling process may feel daunting.

The first and most important step in private car sales is gathering the documents. You will need written records of the sale to meet state requirements. However, the exact requirements vary from state to state. Here are some of the most common types of paperwork necessary. Be sure to check with your local DMV to see what else you need.

Keep in mind, the documentation you require doesn't change, whether you're accepting cash or another form of payment. For example, just because you're taking a cashier check, that doesn't mean the bank records will suffice for recording the sale. Always read up to know what your state requires of the buyer and seller before you list your car for sale.

What Paperwork Do I Need to Sell My Car Privately?

Certificate of Title

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

If you still owe on a car loan, the 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 if you can pay off any car loans before you sell. However, if you plan to use money from the sale to pay off the loan, you won’t be able to transfer the 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, this appears 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.

How To Replace a Lost Title

If you’ve misplaced the title, or it’s been stolen or damaged, you can request 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. Other 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.
  1. Complete the Proper Form. You’ll likely find it in 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.
  2. Submit the Form and Pay the Fee. You might be able to do it online if you live in:
  • District of Columbia
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

In the other states, you will need to apply by mail or in person.

Odometer Disclosure

Most of the time, you won’t need a separate document for the odometer disclosure because the odometer reading on the title transfer form will do. However, if there’s no room for it on the title, you’ll need a separate Odometer Disclosure statement. 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. Car buyers also feel more confident if you show that you’ve kept up with routine maintenance. If you have "full service records available," you should emphasize that in your listing.

Inspection Report

With any kind of sale, your credibility is near zero when you first approach a prospect. An inspection report can help you build trust. You show that you’ve done your due diligence in making sure you’re selling a roadworthy car.

When you list your car for sale with PrivateAuto, you can access our inspection scheduler for free. It shows ASE certifiedtechs near you. If the inspection uncovers any defects, be sure to get them repaired right away. Keep the receipt so you can show the buyer that you’ve taken care of it.

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

As with the inspection report and service records, a vehicle history report helps build trust with potential buyers. We recommend a report from AutoCheck, a PrivateAuto trusted partner.

Warranty Documents

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

  • Remaining factory warranty. 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. 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 certain 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 an emissions inspection once a year or once every two years. Often, the cars 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 when applying for a tile. New Mexico requires an emissions inspection report when purchasing or transferring ownership in Bernalillo County. Moreover, Arizona requires the same for vehicles in Tucson and Phoenix.

Bill of Sale

Although many states 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.

If you’re in a state that requires a bill of sale, visit your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website to download the state-approved form. You need a bill of sale if you’re selling in these states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Maine
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

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 often submit it online, mail it in, or deliver it in person to your local office. Contact your local DMV for details.

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 buying and selling privately in your state.

Conclusion/Final Thoughts

Selling your car privately takes some time and effort, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re organized and gather up the paperwork before you sell, everything should go smoothly.

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