Step 9: Finalize the Sale
Rules governing the sale of motor vehicles vary from state to state. Make sure you check with the department of motor vehicles (DMV) in your state, and keep in mind that much of the information is now available on DMV Web sites.
When selling your car, it’s important to limit your liability. If someone drives away in the car you just sold and they get into an accident, can you be held responsible? There are two ways to deal with this concern.
Once you have the money from the sale (it’s customary to request either cash or a cashier’s check), record the odometer reading and sign the car’s title over to the buyer. In some states, the license plates go along with the car. A new title will be issued and mailed to the new owner. Additionally, in most states, a release-of-liability form can be downloaded from the DMV Web site or filled out online. This establishes the time the car left your possession.
But what if you still owe money on the car, and the bank is holding the title? One way to deal with this is to conclude the sale at the bank where the title is held. Call ahead and have the title ready. Then, once money has changed hands and the bank has been paid the balance of the loan, sign the title over to the buyer.
In some cases, however, an out-of-state bank might hold the title. In this instance, we recommend you go with the buyer to the DMV and get a temporary operating permit based on a bill of sale. Then, after you pay off the balance of the loan with the proceeds from the car sale, have the title mailed to the new owner. Sign it over to the new owner and the transaction is complete.
Finally, remember to contact your insurance agent to cancel your policy on the vehicle you have sold (or transfer the coverage to your new car).
Next: After the Sale