What documents do you need when you sell your car?

We put together a list of documents you’ll need to sell your car. However keep in mind that each state has different requirements, so your local DMV really should be your best friend.

What documents do you need when you sell your car?

So you’ve done your research, set a price, took some nice photos and created an ad. Your car is “sell-ready” and you’ve been fielding buyers’ inquiries. Now it’s time to gather all the paperwork so you can finalize the transaction quickly when the right buyer comes along.

We put together a list of documents needed to sell your car. However keep in mind that each state has different requirements, so your local DMV really should be your best friend. In addition, in cases where you have still a lien on the vehicle, or if your buyer has financing, lenders will have additional requirements as well.

The Title

Probably the most important piece of document for the sale, as it denotes the right of ownership for the vehicle. If you still have a lien on your vehicle, then you will need to notify your lien holder about the pending sale. You will need to payoff the amount you owe before the title can be released to the new owner. In the rare cases that you might have misplaced your title, check with your DMV to apply for a duplicate and replace your lost title.

Bill of Sale

The bill of sale serves as a record detailing all the information of the transaction between the buyer and the seller. Depending on what state you’re in, sometimes it’s not required, but even so we would recommend completing one to keep for your own records. You can always get a copy from your local DMV.

Release of Liability or Notice of Transfer

In a private party transaction, you would be at risk if the new owner of the vehicle gets in an accident, but the vehicle is still registered under your name. To protect yourself from future liabilities after the sale, you need to notify the DMV about the transaction, and submit a Release of Liability Form or provide a Notice of Transfer. Be sure to check with your state’s requirements to see what is needed. While not every state requires a notification, if is in your best interest to do so anyway.

Service Records

Is your vehicle’s maintenance up to date? It will ease your buyer’s mind if you have proof to show for. Especially if you followed the recommended maintenance schedule and your vehicle is indeed in great shape.

Owner’s Manual

This will be helpful for the new buyer if they ever need to troubleshoot common problems, or just need a reference to decipher what warning light comes on. If you no longer have a copy, there are ways to find a copy online these days.

Warranty Documents

Is the vehicle under manufacturer’s warranty or extended warranty? If it is, that will definitely be a selling point, so make sure you have a copy for the new owner.

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Smog Certificate

This is only required in certain states (i.e. California), so check to see what your local regulations are. If you have a buyer that is from out-of-state, he or she should double check her own state’s requirements as well.

Vehicle History Report

This item is usually negotiable between the buyer and the seller. It will make things easier for you during the process if you already have a copy of the report available. This is important for all used car transactions as buyers would always want to know how many owners there are, and if the vehicle has been in any minor or major accidents. However the buyer can also use services such as CarFax or AutoCheck to get a copy. If you are listing your car for sale on Instamotor, we automatically provide one for free to save you and the buyer some money (we’re awesome, we know)!

Vehicle Inspection Report

If you live in Texas and are ready to sell your car, you're going to need all of the previous documents, but in addition you'll need a Vehicle Inspection Report, which is currently required in 17 Texas counties. The inspection is comprehensive, as passenger cars must have multiple aspects checked to ensure cars on the road are as safe as possible.

Documents needed to sell a car in both California and Texas are largely the same, where the only differences lie in fundamentals like what it takes to pass a smog test in California vs. a smog test in Texas. Be sure to do your research on what condition you need your car to be in, and have everything at the ready to make the process as smooth as possible.

The Instamotor TeamThe Instamotor Team

Not your typical used car salesman. Our team is here to provide honest and transparent advice about car buying and selling.