How to Transfer a Vehicle Title After a Successful Private Sale

Congratulations! You’ve sold a vehicle privately, without the help of a dealer or professional.  However, this means that there are some legalities that you now must handle on your own.

The title of a vehicle shows its rightful ownership. It must be filled out with accurate, complete information before it is transferred to its new owner. Both the seller of the vehicle and the buyer must provide valid information in order for the title transfer to go smoothly.

Although the process of transferring a title after selling your vehicle privately varies from one state to the next, here are the basic procedures.

Make Sure You Have the Proper VIN Number

No matter the state in which you are performing the title transfer, you will need the vehicle’s identification number (VIN). This number is found on the windshield of the vehicle, and must be correctly written on the title. It’s always a good idea to double-check the VIN number as it is a 17-digit alphanumerical code and the letters and figures can easily be transposed. Make sure that the VIN number that is already on the car title matches the VIN number of the vehicle being sold.

Create a Bill of Sale

Even though you are privately selling your vehicle, you should create a legal bill of sale to document the transfer. The seller usually creates such a document (typed is preferred over handwritten) and notes the VIN number of the vehicle, the date of the sale and the amount for which the vehicle sold. It should also contain the signatures of the seller and buyer of the vehicle.

Complete the Title Form in Black or Blue Ink ONLY

In most states, the information that you must fill out when you sell a vehicle is on the back side of the title. Just as with all legal documents, you must complete the title form in blue or black ink only. These types of ink will last longer than colored inks. Some people prefer to use blue ink as it will show up as an original signature on an original document. Never try to erase or use white out on a title, as this will make the title void.

Check the Vehicle’s Odometer Reading

On the title will be a space to list the vehicle’s odometer reading at the time of the sale. Make sure that this is correct. Odometer readings that are less than what is stated on the title could indicate that the odometer has been illegally rolled back.

Make Sure to Sign Your Proper Name

When you sign the title, make sure to use the legal, proper name that was originally listed on the vehicle’s title. If your middle initial is included on the title, be sure to include it. If you have gotten married since the original title was created, however, you will want to sign the title using your maiden name, the name that was originally on the title. Your signature must match the printed name on the title. If signed improperly, the title must be redone.

Sign the Title in the Correct Place

Make sure not to sign in the space where the buyer is supposed to sign, and that the buyer signs in the correct area as well. If either of these are signed incorrectly, the title will need to be redone.

Take Care of Any Existing Liens

If there are any liens against the vehicle, they must be paid before the title can be transferred to a new owner.

If there were ever any liens against your vehicle, it’s a good practice to doublecheck with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to make certain that they have been correctly removed from the state’s records.

Review the Title

After completing all of the information on the title, review it for accuracy and completeness. Double-check the VIN number, the addresses of the buyer and seller (if listed), the signatures and their locations. If a mistake is made on the title, it will create a hassle in getting the state to issue a new one.

Know Your State’s Procedures

Title transfer requirements vary at the state level meaning that there are different requirements in different states. Additionally, some states require that an agent or tag service performs the vehicle title transfer. Read up on these procedures before conducting the private sale so that you will know what you and the buyer should expect.

If you follow the above procedures, the transfer of your privately sold vehicle’s title to its new owner should go smoothly.