sell a car privately

Thinking about how to sell a car privately? Selling a car privately can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to get the best value for your vehicle and also benefits the buyer who can get a better price than at a dealership. In this ultimate guide, we’ll guide you through the process to sell a car privately and answer some crucial questions.

Table of Contents

What is needed when you sell a car privately?

When you decide to sell your car privately, there are several essential steps you need to take:

Gather all documentation

Collect all the necessary paperwork related to your car, including the title, maintenance records, and any warranties. This documentation will provide transparency and build trust with potential buyers.

Set the Right Price

Research the market to determine the fair market value of your car. Websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can help you estimate your vehicle’s worth. Pricing it competitively will attract more buyers.

Prepare your car

 Clean your car thoroughly, both inside and out. Consider getting a professional detailing to make your vehicle shine. Address any minor repairs or maintenance issues to present a well-maintained car. Determine whether a repair is worth the return. You don’t want to spend money fixing something that the prospective buyer will not appreciate. A good cleaning goes along way. Even replacing old stained floor mats can improve the appearance of the interior.

Create an attractive listing

Take high-quality photos of your car from different angles and write a detailed description when you go to list your car for sale. Capture front, back, all sides and pictures of the inside. Highlight its features, recent maintenance, and any unique selling points. Did you recently buy tires? Include a picture of the tire tread up close with a coin to show the depth of the tread. Include the VIN in the listing so the buyer can run a carfax. Even better, include a link to the Carfax to provide to the buyer upfront. This builds trust and shows you are upfront and transparent about your vehicle. And be transparent, if there is something obvious the prospective buyer is going to notice and could be a deterrent, why not show that upfront? Why not tell the buyer, “There’s a decent scratch on the passenger side. But could be potentially buffed out.” Let them know, what they are getting into. 

Be clear and descriptive about the vehicle you have for sale. Also be direct that you’ll only entertain fair offers. The more attractive the listing, the more eyeballs that will be on it, so there’s more potential for tire kickers. 

What is required to sell a car?

To legally sell your car, you’ll need to follow these steps:

Ownership Transfer

Ensure that you have the car’s title in your name, free of any liens. If there’s an outstanding loan, you’ll need to pay it off or arrange the sale through your lender. If you don’t have your title or lost it, you’ll need to request a new one. Each state is different but you can call your DMV to find out how to request a replacement title. Make sure you do this before you begin to list your vehicle for sale because it can take a few weeks to process.

Bill of Sale

Ensure that you have the car’s title in your name, free of any liens. If there’s an outstanding loan, you’ll need to pay it off or arrange the sale through your lender.

When writing a bill of sale for a private sale of a car, you’ll want to include important information to protect both the buyer and the seller. Here’s a casual guide on how to do it:

1. Header: Begin with a title at the top, such as “Bill of Sale” or “Private Vehicle Bill of Sale.”

2. Vehicle Information: Include details about the car being sold:
– Make, model, and year
– Vehicle identification number (VIN)
– Odometer reading (mileage)

3. Seller Information: Provide the seller’s information:
– Full name
– Address
– Contact information

4. Buyer Information: Include the buyer’s information:
– Full name
– Address
– Contact information

5. Sale Information:
– Date of sale
– Sale price (in both words and numbers, to avoid confusion)
– Method of payment (e.g., cash, check, or electronic transfer)

6. As-Is Clause: It’s common to include a statement that the vehicle is sold “as-is,” meaning the buyer accepts any existing condition of the car.

7. Signatures: Both the seller and buyer should sign and date the bill of sale. Make sure to keep a copy for each party.

8. Witnesses (optional): If desired, you can have a third party witness the signing of the document. They should also sign and date the bill of sale.

9. Notary (optional): Some states require notarization. Check your local laws to determine if this is necessary.

Remember to check your local regulations and legal requirements, as the specifics of a bill of sale can vary from place to place.

Free Downloadable Bill of Sale Template

bill of sale template

Release of Liability

In many states, it is essential to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles oor relevant agency about the sale to release you from any future liability associated with the car.  Typically you can submit a a Release of Liability form on the DMV website or download one to submit in person. A release of liability form clearly states that the seller is releasing all liability associated with the vehicle to the buyer as of the date of sale. This statement typically states that the vehicle is now the buyer’s responsibility.

Smog Certification and Emissions Testing

In some areas, a smog certification is necessary to sell your car. Ensure you comply with local emissions requirements. The specific requirements and locations where smog certification is mandatory can vary by state and even local jurisdictions.

How do I sell my old car?

To successfully sell your old car, follow these steps:


Use online platforms such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or automotive listing websites like Autotrader and to reach potential buyers. Your listings should be transparent including all information you can about the car including lots of pictures.

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Sell Your Car on Facebook Marketplace

Remember to include clear and high-quality photos of the car, showcasing its exterior, interior, and any notable features. Be transparent about the vehicle’s history and condition to attract genuine buyers.

Download this sample Facebook Marketplace Listing template. You can customize it for the vehicle you’re selling so you get more eyeballs and more serious buyers contacting you!

Get more serious buyers with this Free Facebook Marketplace Listing Template

facebook marketplace template car listing


 Be prepared for negotiation. Determine your lowest acceptable sale price and stick to it, but be willing to compromise within reason.

Meet in a safe place

When meeting with potential buyers, choose a well-lit, public location. Avoid having strangers come to your home. A good place to meet is at a bank where camera’s are often present. You can also handle the transaction and transfer of money there so you’re not carrying around a large amount of money. You may also need a notary who can also be present at a bank.

Complete the sale

Once you’ve agreed on a price, complete the necessary paperwork, exchange payment, and provide the buyer with the keys and necessary documents. A cashier’s check may be a safe option to accept to take payment for the vehicle.

Selling a car by owner requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following these tips for selling a car, steps and guidelines, you can navigate the process successfully and ensure a safe and profitable transaction. Good luck with your car sale!

Need help selling your vehicle privately?

You can consult with an expert to help you get your vehicle sold!