Selling Your Car: Do You Need A Bill Of Sale?

February 25, 2011

The economic downturn has forced more Americans to sell their vehicles on their own instead of trading them in with a car dealer. Yet most of us only sell a handful of cars in our lifetime. The result is a learning curve that many of us need help with.

One of the most difficult areas for private sellers to navigate is to safely complete the paperwork when selling a vehicle privately. And one of the most common concerns in this area is the question of “Is a bill of sale actually needed?”

 It Depends…

Did you know that in most states a bill of sale does not actually transfer legal ownership of your car to the new buyer when you sell it privately? For those states, the actual transfer is done through the DMV. However, some states require a bill of sale for a private deal to be completed.

When I was researching my new book, I discovered that most experts recommend that you complete a bill of sale  whether your state requires one or not. Here is why:

  • A Bill of Sale makes the sales transaction explicit by identifying what is for sale,            any conditions attached, and the price. (FromHELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW!)

Selling Privately?

If you plan on selling your vehicle privately you can create your own bill of sale. Be sure to include the following:

  • The vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • year, make, and model
  • odometer reading (mileage)
  • date of sale
  • purchase price
  • be sure to include the phrase "sold as is," unless you have agreed to something else
  • names and addresses of buyer and seller
  • signatures of buyer and seller

For a small fee you can download an attorney-prepared bill of sale online that has been specifically designed for your state. Use the search terms “auto bill of sale” to see what is available and at what price.


L. James Johnson is the guy who wrote the book on how to sell your car online: HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online! is available on

The Car Connection
See the winners »
The Car Connection
Commenting is closed for this article
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.