How to Transfer Ownership When You Sell Your Car

How to Transfer Ownership When You Sell Your Car

You decided to post an ad and you found a buyer. Now it's time to say goodbye to your car. A few last-minute reminders are below, however.

Related: Prepare to Sell

  • Don't jump the gun; make sure the sale is secure. If you accepted payment via a cashier's check, follow the steps in the Securing Safe Payment section to ensure the payment is valid before you sign over the title. If you used an escrow service, wait until it tells you that payment has been received.
  • If you're dealing with an out-of-town buyer, arrange for that person to pick up the vehicle, or consider employing a professional delivery service. Delivery services transport vehicles on large hauling trucks. Prices vary depending on the length of the transport and the vehicle's weight, but the cost usually starts at about $500. Work out the cost and payment issues with the buyer first.
  • In most states, license plates stay with the seller, not the car, though California is a notable exception; check travel-services provider AAA's Digest of Motor Laws for your state's specific restrictions.
  • If the plates remain with the original owner, remove them so you don't retain a legal tie to the car. If the plates stay with the car, you need to fill out the proper paperwork at the Department of Motor Vehicles so the plates transfer to the new owner.
  • Call your insurance company and have the vehicle removed from your policy.
  • If the buyer chooses to pay by money order, follow the same safe-payment guidelines for accepting checks. Verify the name and amount with the issuing bank, and request a money order from a local bank whenever possible.
  • As long as you were forthright with information about your car in the selling process, you shouldn't be liable for anything once the sale is complete. In most states, the law assumes that private-party sales carry "as is" status. Still, it doesn't hurt to get that understanding in writing. Have both parties sign off before the transaction is complete.

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