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A bill of sale, also referred to as a “purchase and sale”, is a document that establishes the details of a transaction between two (2) parties, Buyer and Seller. The form is usually very simple stating the financial terms of the agreement followed by signature of the seller (buyer’s signature may not be required). The monetary funds (such as cash or certified check) should exchange hands at the time of purchase (which should also be dated in the bill of sale).

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Table of Contents

How to Buy or Sell a Vehicle (Privately)

A Bill of Sale is most commonly used as a legal contract when conveying ownership of a motor vehicle. Use the following instructions to coordinate a successful transfer as the Buyer or Seller.

Step 1 – Negotiate the Terms

Once you have decided whether to buy or sell a specific vehicle, you will need to enter the terms of the agreement. If the vehicle is being sold for cash, the entire amount will be due at the time of sale. Any financing will have to be done prior with a local bank or credit union. If the vehicle is being sold for cash and trade, both vehicles and the terms of the transaction must be stated (common for vehicles purchased from dealers).

Step 2 – Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

The Buyer should obtain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the motor vehicle. This number is unique to every automobile, consisting of 17 characters. It’s usually located on the driver’s side windshield or inside where the door meets the vehicle. If you are unable to find the VIN number, you can always find it on the vehicle’s Title or Registration. When obtaining this number, you can see all the repairs that were ever done during its existence including car accidents, water damage, and ownership history.

  • – Get a detailed report for $39.99.
  • – Get a free report.

Private Inspection – Remember, only damage that gets reported to an insurance company gets mentioned in a VIN lookup. Therefore it is recommended to have a third (3rd) party mechanic inspect a vehicle to ensure it is in proper working condition.

Step 3 – Gather Vehicle Documents

Title and Registration – In order to complete the sale, the Seller must provide the Title and Registration to the vehicle. If the vehicle’s Title is missing, you can request a new Title from a DMV office which can take about 10 to 14 business days to obtain.

Vehicle Bill of Sale – The legal contract between a Buyer and Seller that details a transaction between the parties. The form should only be signed by the Seller when the funds have been transferred in-person or by via a bank transfer. View Instructions.

Odometer Disclosure Statement – According to federal law all vehicles that are under 10 years of age and below 16,000 pounds must have their odometer be verified by the Buyer. The Seller must acknowledge on the form that to the best of their knowledge the reading is accurate and that the mileage has not been defective.

Photo ID – Due to the amount of Craigslist and newspaper scams, it is highly recommended to obtain a copy of the Seller’s photo identification (such as a driver’s license). This is to be 100% sure that the person authorizing the bill of sale is able to legally sell the property. The Buyer should make certain that the title and identification match accordingly.

Step 4 – Complete the Sale 

Document Signing – Once all the necessary papers are drawn up, the sale may be completed. The parties should meet at a mutually location with the Buyer bringing the funds and the Seller bringing the vehicle. At this time the Bill of Sale should be signed by both parties and the Title should be signed over.

Sales Tax – Lookup the sales tax in your State. Depending on the laws the Buyer or Seller will be responsible and this must be paid at the time of sale.

Step 5 – Registration

After a bill of sale has been finalized, the new owner will take possession and will need to register the vehicle within a certain time-frame. In order to properly register a vehicle, the following documents and fee(s) will need to be taken to a DMV Office location:

  • Bill of Sale – The original that was signed by the Buyer and Seller.
  • Title – A new Certificate of Title will be issued and sent to the Owner within 30 days.
  • Odometer Disclosure Statement – If the car is younger than 10 years and under 16,000 pounds.
  • Proof of Car Insurance – Usually an insurance card is suitable.
  • Identification (such as a Driver’s License or Passport)
  • Fee(s) – There is a tax or fee charged in every State.
  • *Emissions Test (*only required in some States)

Once the vehicle has been registered the buying process is complete.

DMV Offices By State

Not every state requires you to complete a bill of sale when finalizing a vehicle transaction. However, no state prohibits you from completing a bill of sale either. Even though many states do not require a bill of sale, they still offer an official form (therefore, it’s recommended to complete a bill of sale even if it’s not required in your state) which we have included below. For states that require you to use their specific bill of sale form, we have also included below. For more information regarding your vehicle or a bill of sale, contact your nearest DMV Office.

IMPORTANT: A Bill of Sale does not transfer Ownership of Title, it only shows proof that a transaction took place. You must sign over the Vehicle’s Title in order to transfer ownership.

State DMV locations Vehicle Bill of Sale Bill of Sale Required?
 Alabama  PDFODT, Word Yes
 Alaska  PDFODT, Word No
 Arizona PDF No
 Arkansas PDF Yes
 California PDF No
 Colorado PDF No
 Connecticut PDF Yes
 Delaware PDFODT, Word No
 Florida PDF No
 Georgia PDF Yes
 Hawaii PDF Yes
 Idaho PDF No
 Illinois PDFODT, Word Yes
 Indiana   PDF No
 Iowa PDFODT, Word Yes
 Kansas PDFODT, Word Yes
 Kentucky   PDFODT, Word No
 Louisiana   PDF No
 Maine   PDF Yes
 Maryland PDF Yes
 Massachusetts   PDF Yes
 Michigan PDFODT, Word Yes
 Minnesota PDFODT, Word No
 Mississippi PDFODT, Word Yes
 Missouri PDF Yes
 Montana PDF Yes
 Nebraska PDF Yes
 Nevada   PDF Yes
 New Hampshire   PDF Yes
 New Jersey   PDFODT, Word No
 New Mexico PDF Yes
 New York Word Yes
 North Carolina PDFODT, Word No
 North Dakota PDF No
 Ohio   PDFODT, Word Yes
 Oklahoma PDFODT, Word Yes
 Oregon PDF No
 Pennsylvania PDFODT, Word No
 Rhode Island PDFODT, Word Yes
 South Carolina   PDF No
 South Dakota PDF Yes
 Tennessee PDF No
 Texas PDF Yes
 Utah PDF Yes
 Vermont PDF Yes
 Virginia PDFODT, Word No
 Washington PDF Yes
 West Virginia   PDF Yes
 Wisconsin PDFODT, Word No
 Wyoming PDF Yes

Key Terms

For as simple and straightforward a Bill of Sales can be, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the language found inside your document.

As-Is – A statement or clause within a bill of sale that states that the item is being bought or sold in its current condition, whether new or used, and that that the Buyer is accepting the item with all its faults. This protects the Seller and prevents the Buyer from coming back after a completed transaction with claims against the item.

Buyer (Purchaser) – The person in the transaction who pays money in the return for an item.

Gift – The act of giving an item to the “buyer” with no compensation in return.

Notary Public – A disinterested 3rd party public officer who can attest to the signatures of the Buyer and Seller. You can find a Notary Public at your local bank or by using a professional service.

Payment – The money used to pay for an item in a transaction.

Seller – The person or party in a transaction that is offering an item for purchase.

Trade-In – A type of transaction that starts with the buyer offering an item to the seller in equal exchange or at a discount for the Seller’s item. This type of transaction is commonly practiced in the car business when the buyer wants to trade in their used vehicle for another vehicle sold by the seller.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – A unique 17 character code consisting of numbers and letters which is essentially the “serial number” of a vehicle. The VIN must be written into a vehicle bill of sale in order for it to be valid.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do I need a Bill of Sale when selling my car?

Depending on which state and sometimes even the County you are located, a Bill of Sale may or may not be required. By adding an extra layer of protection for the Seller, this document should always be included and completed when a vehicle transfers ownership (View State Requirements).

How do I prevent disagreements from the Purchaser after the sale?

Preventing future disputes between the Buyer and Seller is mainly a reason for a Bill of Sale, therefore it’s important to input as many details as possible to maximize the effectiveness of your Bill of Sale. Adding and completing a Certificate of Acknowledgment will further strengthen the power of your Bill of Sale.

What is the difference between a Sales Agreement and a Bill of Sale?

A Sales Agreement is categorized as a contract and allows you to enter more detailed information pertaining to the sale of goods and services. A Bill of Sale acts more as a receipt (proof of purchase) and does not necessarily hold any contractual bearings.

Does the Buyer (Purchaser) need to sign the Bill of Sale?

Due to the varying laws within each state pertaining to this issue, it’s important to check your local laws if you decide to not have the Buyer sign the document. When possible, it’s always best to have the Buyer sign the Bill of Sale.

When do I deliver the Bill of Sale to the Buyer?

Typically after paying for an item, you receive a receipt showing proof of your purchase. A Bill of Sale should work in the same way, by only delivering the Bill of sale after payment has been received by the seller.

When would I need to use a Promissory Note?

The only time a Promissory Note should be used is when the Buyer does not have enough funds to pay for the Seller’s item in full at the time of purchase. By issuing a Promissory Note, the Buyer promises to pay over a period of time for the Seller’s item.

How to Write

This example shows you how to fill-out and complete a Motor Vehicle Bill of Sale. If your state requires a bill of sale but does not provide it for you, this is the form you would need when buying or selling your car.

Step 1 – Buyer & Seller

For best results, download your Motor Vehicle Bill of Sale in Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word (.docx), or OpenDocument Text (odt). It’s formatted so you can easily write your information in the blank spaces. First and foremost, enter the following:

  • Date Created
  • County and State
  • Name and Mailing Address of both Buyer and Seller

Step 2 – Payment Type

There are only 3 ways in which your transaction can go; a payment, trade-in, or a gift. Check one of the 3 possibilities.

  • If the transaction is by Payment or Trade-in, you must enter the vehicle’s information such as the Make, Model, Body-type, Year, Color, and the miles on the Odometer.
  • If the vehicle is a Trade-in, enter the vehicle being received.

Step 3 – VIN, Taxes, and Other Terms & Conditions

The VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number can be found on the vehicle’s title, registration card, and even the owner’s manual. It shouldn’t be that difficult to find. You will know you have found the VIN if all the letters and numbers add up to 17 characters.

  • Enter the 17 character VIN.
  • Taxes can either be included or excluded in a sale, checkmark the box accordingly.
  • Enter terms and conditions within the sale. For example: The sale will not be complete unless the ski rack is attached when the car is sold.

Step 4 – Odometer Disclosure Statement

An odometer disclosure statement is required by federal law when transferring ownership of a motor vehicle. The Seller’s Name and an accurate milage count read on the odometer must be entered. If for some reason, possibly due to a faulty odometer, the milage count is not accurate, select the appropriate checkmark.

  • Complete your Odometer Disclosure Statement with signatures from the Buyer, Seller, and two witnesses.

Step 5 – Certificate of Acknowledgment

A certificate of acknowledgment is a form that certifies absolute proof that a Bill of Sale used in a transaction is valid. The Buyer and Seller must be present in the presence of a Notary Public when this form is completed. Enter the following information:

  • State and County
  • Date of Execution
  • Names of Buyer(s) and Seller(s)
  • Notary’s Name and Signature

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