There’s lots to think about when selling your car. But when pondering the question, “What do I need to sell my car?”, there’s more than fixing it up, cleaning it out, and making sure it’s fully inspected. You need to have all the paperwork in hand to successfully transfer ownership of the vehicle. Gathering all relevant documentation is an important and, in most cases, required step. Here is what you will need to ensure the transaction can be completed quickly and legally.

Vehicle Title

The title serves as proof of ownership. If you have the title in your possession, you can sign it over to the buyer and hand them the keys. However, a bank or lienholder will have the title if you’re still making payments on it. You’ll need to contact them and pay off whatever amount you still owe on the vehicle, before the title can be released to a new owner. In case you have misplaced the title document, you can apply for a duplicate or replacement with your DMV.

Maintenance Records

Provide any prospective buyer with copies of your maintenance records. If you don’t have them, you can obtain them from a repair shop or dealership. Knowing a car has been properly maintained gives a buyer peace of mind, since the vehicle is less likely to have problems. Following a recommended maintenance schedule can keep a car in great shape even if it has significant mileage.

Vehicle History Report

You can obtain a vehicle history report yourself to provide a potential buyer. Or, you can list the vehicle identification number on an ad so the buyer can check for themselves. It provides a detailed look at the car’s service history, whether it had major repairs, and if it was in any accidents. Open recalls, previous owners, and odometer readings are also shown in this report.


A copy of the manufacturer’s warranty or extended warranty is a selling point. You should also have the warranty provider’s contact information. A transferrable warranty is even better as it’s easier for the buyer to have access to the balance of the warranty and put it in their name. It can also increase bargaining power, whether you want to increase the asking price or the buyer tries to negotiate a lower price.

Also provide, in writing, that there are no implied warranties on the car. The buyer must acknowledge they’re accepting all future repair and maintenance responsibilities. It’s good practice to do so as a private seller too, although there are no legal requirements to provide a warranty.

Odometer Disclosure

Providing an odometer disclosure is required by federal law. Per the Truth in Mileage Act, it’s needed for every motor vehicle up to 10 years old and up to/including 12,000 pounds. A current mileage reading can be provided on the vehicle title or as a separate form, depending on the state you live in. An odometer disclosure usually identifies the year, make, and model of the vehicle as well as the vehicle identification number, buyer’s name and address, buyer’s/seller’s signature, and the signature and seal of a notary public.

Bill of Sale

This document reveals the terms and conditions of the sale. It is not required but puts important details in writing, such as a description of the vehicle, its mileage, purchase price, delivery date, and appropriate signatures (buyer, seller, and notary public).

Notice of Transfer/Release of Liability

What do you need to sell your car to a private party? The proper documentation proves the vehicle is registered in the name of the new owner. Otherwise, you would be liable if they were to get into an accident with the car. Notifying the DMV about the transaction (by submitting a Notice of Transfer or Release of Liability Form), protects you from future liabilities. Requirements vary by state, so check with your state’s rules before closing on a sale.

Trade-In Your Vehicle at Hawthorne Auto Square

We’ve made trading in your car easy by providing access to the Edmunds trade-in value estimator. Exceptional deals on trade-ins and used vehicle purchases are available as well. At Hawthorne Auto Square, we have a wide range of popular brands, provide financing, and take care of vehicle service and maintenance. To learn more, read our answers to common questions or call 866-707-7664 to speak with us directly.