Selling your car to a used car dealer or to a car lot can be an easy way to sell your car. Especially if you are selling to someone that has a reputation in your community, the transaction can be fast and to the point. The sales person may even show you the “book” value which is always many times lower than what you can get if you sell the car yourself. And that is the trade-off.

For convenience, you will take a hit on the sales price, a big hit. For some people they would rather not deal with any of it and take a hit.

When I sold my first car I wanted that trade in value applied to the next car I was buying. It was back in the day when I researched very little and went with my gut. Since then I’ve wised up. Looking back, I could have sold the car for many times what I got for it. At the time I was so focused on getting something that I did not look to what I could do myself to maximize the amount I was getting for the car I was selling.

Now I realize I should have sold the car myself. It really is not that much more work or really complicated (for most people and in most situations). So I write this blog post to help educate others who may want to sell their own car without going through a dealer.

Clean Your Car

Before you start the paperwork of selling your car, do yourself a favor and clean the car. That means washing and waxing the exterior and vacuuming and polishing the inside. Glass cleaner can also help to sell your car. You don’t need to spend hundreds on getting the car detailed. A good cleaning is probably enough. The reason I mention cleaning your car is because this little extra step can dramatically change the value that someone is willing to pay for your car.

Cleaning your car before you sell it is common knowledge; yet, so many people think to sidestep a cleaning by justifying to themselves that they are going to be spending $50 to clean a car that they are selling. To them the costs would be throwing away money. In reality, they are probably increasing their sales price.

Now, on to the paperwork you will need to sell your car yourself.


This is primary document you will need (although not the only one). In order to sell your car, you must transfer the car title to the buyer. A car title is issued by your state’s DMV. If you lose your title, you will need to get a copy from your state’s DMV office. There is generally a lot of paperwork involved, so it is best to find the original, if you can.

When you sell your car, you as the seller do not go to the DMV with the title and make the change in the DMV records. That is done by the buyer. But before you just hand over title and the keys, take some precautions to protect yourself. Anyone who buys a car from an individual and not from a dealer can expect the seller to take some precautions.

A buyer may have some precautions of their own, such as requiring a vehicle report from You should have one printed for any potential buyer.

Once all of the precautions have been met, you have been paid, you can then (and only then) sign over the title and hand the person the keys. You can make a copy of the person’s DMV license and verify on your state’s DMV page (if your state offers e-verify).

Other than the title, you may need to enter into a contract. In fact, you should complete a written contract called a bill of sale.

Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is a written document that is signed by you (the seller) and the buyer. This contract must also be dated, included certain information, such as the vehicle’s VIN and should sum-up what you and the buyer agree. In some states, the bill of sale is required. See our list of states to see if your state requires a bill of sale.

There are two types of bill of sales that we offer: those with and those without (or "as-is") a warranty. Our forms meet state requirements (where required) and even where not required, a bill of sale can help to provide a level of protection against fraud.

The warranty is not on the car’s workmanship (engine, tires, parts, etc), but on the title. The warranty ensures that if there are any problems with the title (such as any holds or pending loans) then the seller (you) will fix them at the seller’s expense.

A bill of sale does not require that you provide the buyer with a warranty, but offering a warranty can help to close a sale. You can check before you sell your car at your state’s DMV whether or not your car has any holds or other encumbrances.

For more information visit our bill of sale page.

Other than those two things, a vehicle title and bill of sale, there is no other paperwork that you as the seller need to complete.

Don’t do what I did when I sold my first car. Sell your own car and get a better deal.



This blog entry was written by Sanket Mistry.

Sanket Mistry, J.D., M.I.A.      Sanket Mistry is the founder and CEO of Peerless Legal and blogs regularly. He has written numerous books including, "25 Estate Planning Forms," "8 Living Trust Forms," "Simple Will Creator," "Give Through a Will & Living Trust," and "Guidance On Creating Your Own Will & Power of Attorney," and the bestselling books in the Legal Self-Help Guide series, "Will, Trust, & Power of Attorney Creator and Estate Records Organizer" and "Estate Planning in Plain-English." He earned his JD from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University and is a member of the New York State Bar. He has worked, and volunteered, at a number of nonprofits, government agencies, and for-profit corporations. He also holds a BA in philosophy from Emory University and a MIA from Columbia University. He is an avid traveler and tennis player.