Table of Contents
- Find Your State Bill of Sale
- Download a Vehicle / Car Bill of Sale Template (PDF)
- The Definition: What is a Vehicle / Car Bill of Sale?
- When Should You Use One?
- The Consequences of Not Using One
- What Should be Included in One?
1. Find Your State Bill of Sale
Bills of sale are state-dependent documents that vary in their requirements across different states. For your convenience, further information about bills of sale in popular states is available below.
2. Download a Vehicle / Car Bill of Sale Template PDF
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3. The Definition: What is a Vehicle / Car Bill of Sale?
A bill of sale is a legal document that memorializes the sale of an item, typically one of great value. This includes personal property such as laptops, furniture, jewelry, and equipment.
However, this contract is often used for the sales of a car, motorcycle, or other vehicle between two parties — a seller and a purchaser. With a car bill of sale, the seller agrees to transfer ownership of an automobile to the purchaser in exchange for a certain amount of money.
As a reference, people often call this document by other names:
- Auto Bill of Sale
- Auto Purchase Agreement
- Car Contract
- Car Purchase Agreement
- DMV Bill of Sale
- Vehicle Sale Receipt
Learn more about selling your unwanted belongings in our complete guide, How to Sell Your Stuff.
4. When Should You Use One?
Does the Car Buyer Need a Bill of Sale?
Technically, it’s up to the car seller to provide the bill of sale. However, being prepared with one never hurts, as the transaction may be impossible if you are living in certain states. We recommend always having a document prepared for a major transaction like this, even if you live in a state where a vehicle bill of sale is not required.
Does the Car Seller Need a Bill of Sale?
Requirements differ between states. In some states, you do not need a bill of sale to sell your car. In others, you need a signed, dated, and on occasion, notarized bill in order to successfully transfer your title.
We highly recommend that you, as the seller, complete one regardless of state requirements. A valid car bill of sale provides legal evidence of a transaction between two parties, serving as a receipt for items of high value.
The bill of sale alone DOES NOT prove ownership. You must transfer the title of the vehicle to completely protect yourself from legal liabilities upon selling your vehicle. In fact, some title transfers are accompanied by a Release of Liability waiver to finalize the transfer.
5. The Consequences of Not Using One
As a legal record, a vehicle / car bill of sale serves as documentation of a transaction between two parties. Without a valid bill of sale to complete a proper title transfer, the seller may continue to be on the hook for any fees, fines, violations, or criminal shenanigans the new owner (i.e., the “purchaser”) incurs while using the item.
In less extreme situations, if you sold your car to someone off of Craigslist without an auto bill of sale and title transfer, you may still be on the hook for future speeding tickets that should actually be sent to the new owner.
By documenting an agreed-upon transaction, a bill of sale serves to protect both the buyer and seller from potential misunderstandings arising from the sale.
6. What Should be Included in One?
Depending on the type of vehicle being sold or transferred, the description should include necessary identifying details. For example, a vehicle / car bill of sale may include the following details:
- Vehicle identification number (VIN)
- Model year
- Year of manufacture
- Type of body (2-door, truck, van, etc.)
- Number of cylinders (V6, V8, V12, etc.)
- Odometer reading (mileage)
- License plate number (if your state allows plates to be transferred)
In addition to cars and motor vehicles, this document may also be used for a wide variety of other vehicles, including:
|Boat or Yacht||Airplane||Motorhomes||Boat Motor and Trailer||All Terrain Vehicle (ATV)|
|Jet Ski||Helicopter||Recreational Vehicle (RV)||Horse Trailer||3 Wheeler|
|Travel Trailer||4 Wheeler|
*Mobile homes are treated as personal property by the IRS in a 2008 memo when sold as retail and placed on rental property like a trailer park or mobile home park and community.
Conditional vs. Absolute Bills of Sale – Two Different Ways to Pay
A conditional bill of sale transfers ownership of the item to the purchaser only after they have paid all money owed to the seller.
For example, the document is first used to record that both the seller and purchaser agree to transfer ownership of an item like a car if certain conditions are fulfilled. Then a promissory note is used to record how the purchaser will pay the seller over time.
An absolute bill of sale proves a transaction took place and that ownership has been completely transferred to the purchaser without any restrictions.
In contrast to the “conditional” template, this is used when the purchaser is able to pay the entire amount for an item immediately. Furthermore, the seller no longer has ownership claims to the item.