How to write a car bill of sale

Woman standing at her desk as she talks on her phone and writes on a piece of paperImage: Woman standing at her desk as she talks on her phone and writes on a piece of paper

In a Nutshell

Selling your car? Your state may require you to generate a car bill of sale. In some states, you’ll need to use the state-authorized bill of sale template, but in others, you may be able to create your own. The car bill of sale should include the names, addresses and signatures of the buyer and seller as well as some vehicle details and the purchase date and price.
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A car bill of sale serves as a written contract between buyer and seller.

Requirements for a car bill of sale vary by state. But even if you live in a state where the bill of sale isn’t mandatory, you may want to request one. Why? Because it can detail important information about the used car you’re buying and the sale on paper for your records.

If you’re selling your car and want to find out whether your state requires a bill of sale, check your local department of motor vehicles or transportation agency website.

Do I need a bill of sale for a car?

A car bill of sale is a document verifying important details about the car, like its odometer reading, along with other information about the transfer of ownership from one person to another. Some states require a bill of sale.

And a car bill of sale can function differently depending on which state you’re in. For example, if you’re selling your car in Montana and don’t have a copy of your car title, the car bill of sale is one of the documents the buyer will need to get the car’s title transferred to them. And in Georgia you need the bill of sale to get a Georgia title, registration and license plate.

Some states require sellers to complete a bill of sale to remove the seller’s name from the car and help the seller avoid liability related to the car after it’s been sold. That liability risk might, for instance, include the car being …

  • Used in a crime
  • Involved in a crash
  • Ticketed

Who creates the car bill of sale?

Who handles writing up the bill of sale can depend on who sells the car.

For example, in some states, when a dealership sells a car, it will typically produce the bill of sale for you.

But someone selling a car privately may need to generate a bill of sale that both the seller and buyer must sign.

If a bill of sale is required, after both the seller and buyer sign the bill of sale, the seller should make a copy and give it to the buyer.

Can I write my own bill of sale for a car?

Depending on where you live, you may be able to write your own car bill of sale.

Some states require you to use a state-authorized template. Others allow you to write a bill of sale without a template, although you’ll likely need to stick to a checklist of items that must be included. To find out what your state requires, check your local department of motor vehicles. Some offer downloadable templates.

What does a car bill of sale look like?

aaupdatebillofsaleImage: aaupdatebillofsale

Some states may require the following information in a vehicle bill of sale: 

  1. Buyer’s and seller’s names, addresses and signatures. Above the signatures, some state bill of sale templates include a statement like “I declare under penalty of perjury that this information is true and correct.”
  2. Vehicle information such as the year, make, body type and model
  3. Car’s title number
  4. Car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN
  5. Date of sale and purchase price
  6. Odometer reading

Next steps

If you’re selling your car, you may need to generate a car bill of sale — and even if you don’t have to, you may want to. Some states allow you to download a bill of sale form that may ease the process. Be sure to check with your state about what documentation and information you need to provide to close the sale.

About the author: John Egan is a blogger, content marketer and freelance writer in Austin, Texas. He is former editor in chief at Austin-based startup LawnStarter, and he previously worked at the Austin Business Journal, Bankrate and S… Read more.