When you are buying or selling a car privately, one of the most important documents to fill out accurately is the sales agreement, or bill of sale. You won’t be able to transfer a vehicle’s title without a bill of sale.
Some states require that you fill out their state-specific bill of sale when you buy or sell a car. You’ll need to get a state-specific bill of sale if you live in:
If you live in a state that doesn’t require a specific bill of sale provided by the state, you can follow a guideline to write out a good bill of sale. If any of the details are missing from the bill of sale, it can cause delays when transferring the title to the new owner.
Part 1 of 4: Write in the complete vehicle information
Your bill of sale needs to have complete, detailed information regarding the vehicle involved in the transaction.
Step 1: Write the make, model, and year of the vehicle involved in the transaction. Be specific and include model details such as the trim line if it is applicable.
For example, if you have an “SE” model or “Limited” trim line, include that in the model information.
Step 2: Write down your VIN. Write the complete 17-digit VIN number on the bill of sale.
Write the VIN number legibly, making sure that characters cannot be mistaken.
- Note: The VIN number can be seen on the driver’s side dashboard, the side of the door, on insurance records, the car title, or the vehicle registration card.
Step 3: Include a physical description of the vehicle. Write if it is a hatchback, coupe, sedan, SUV, pickup truck, motorcycle, or otherwise.
Also write the exact color of the vehicle on the bill of sale. For example, instead of just “silver,” some makes will specify this as “alabaster silver.”
Step 4: Include odometer reading. Include the exact odometer reading at the time of the sale.
Step 5: Fill in the license plate or tag number. The license plate number will be found on the original car registration and title from the seller.
Part 2 of 4: Include the seller’s information
Step 1: Write the seller’s full name on the bill of sale. Use the legal name that the DMV will have on record.
Step 2: Write in the seller’s address. Write in the complete physical address where the seller lives.
Note the city and state along with the ZIP code.
Step 3: Include the seller’s phone number. This is generally not required, but it’s good to have in case future contact is necessary, such as a discrepancy in seller’s information.
Part 3 of 4: Write in the buyer’s contact information
Step 1: Write the buyer’s full name on the bill of sale. Again, use the legal name that the DMV will have on record.
Step 2: Write in the buyer’s address. Write down the buyer’s full physical address including the city, state, and zip code.
Step 3: Include the buyer’s phone number. Include the buyer’s phone number for the seller’s protection, such as if the payment doesn’t clear at the bank.
Part 4 of 4: Complete the details of the transaction
Step 1: Indicate sale price. Indicate the sum of money agreed upon for the sale.
Step 2: Indicate if the vehicle is a gift. If the vehicle is a gift, indicate “GIFT” for the sale amount and detail the relationship between the gift-giver and the recipient.
- Note: In some relationships, depending on the state, there may be tax breaks or fees waived for a vehicle gifted between family members.
Step 3: Write any terms of the sale on the bill of sale. Terms for the sale should be very clear between the buyer and seller.
If the sale is subject to a vehicle history report or subject to the buyer obtaining financing, indicate that on the bill of sale.
If you are the buyer, and you would like to make sure that the car is running in good shape, you can always have a certified technician from YourMechanic give the vehicle a pre-purchase inspection.
Step 4: Sign and date. The seller needs to sign the bill of sale and date it with the finalized sale date.
Step 5: Make a duplicate copy. Write two copies of the bill of sale -- one for the buyer and one for the seller.
In both cases, the seller should sign the bill of sale.
If you are selling your car privately, make sure you are protected by a bill of sale. While some states have a state-specific bill of sale that you must use, a properly documented motor sales agreement can be created between the buyer and seller. If you are making a private sale in the near future, follow these steps to finalize a bill of sale before transferring the title to the new owner.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Write a Contract For Selling Your Car and was authored by Jason Unrau.