Depending on the state you live in, different forms may be required to transfer vehicle ownership from one party to another. The most common form is your vehicle's certificate of title, which is required in most states. But, no matter where you live, it's necessary to make sure you have the right forms for such an important transaction, so make it a point to call your department of motor vehicles.
Certificate of Title
Your signed vehicle title officially transfers ownership to a buyer, although it may not be the only document necessary. If you do not have your title and do not know where it is, you can apply for a new one through your state's motor vehicle office. Some states offer an instant method for acquiring a new title and some do not, so leave enough time to order your title before you sell your car. The title must be signed by all owners. Some state titles leave a space for the seller and co-seller, or co-owner. Both owners must sign just as their names appear on the front of the title, using the middle initial or suffix listed on the document.
In many states, a lien release is required to transfer vehicle ownership. Even if it is not, many buyers are educated on the matter, meaning that your buyer will likely back out of the car deal if a lien is listed on the title and you cannot provide a lien release. You'll know if a lien holder is listed on your title because a space is provided for noting the lien holder and lists the name of the bank which you owe or owed money to. A lien release is an official bank document printed on bank letterhead listing the vehicle information and that the loan has been satisfied. The release is also signed by a bank representative. Provide the original document when you sell your car and keep a copy if you feel it's necessary. Do not keep the original.
Bill of Sale
The bill of sale protects the buyer and the seller, and it is required in some states for the transfer of ownership. You should make one regardless. The bill of sale, or receipt, should list the vehicle identification number (VIN); the year, make and model of the car; the odometer information; and the selling price. In addition, it should be dated and signed by both the buyer and the seller, along with each party's name, address and driver's license number. The seller should state that the vehicle is being sold "as is," as most used vehicles are. The buyer can use the bill of sale to find the seller should any problems arise at the motor vehicle office when trying to register and title.
The odometer statement is separate from the title in some states. Usually, if the vehicle is less than 10 years old and the title shows no space for the odometer reading information, your state most likely requires an official odometer statement form. The bill of sale sometimes serves this purpose, but not in all states. You should find out if your state requires the form before you sell because you'll have to sign it before the buyer can register or title the car.
Shanan Miller covers automotive and insurance topics for various websites, blogs and dealerships. She has extensive automotive experience, including auction, insurance, finance, service and management positions. Miller has worked for dealer sales events around the United States and now stays local as a sales and leasing consultant for a dealership.