What Paperwork Do You Need to Sell Your Car Online?

What Paperwork Do You Need to Sell Your Car Online?
Image by smarko from Pixabay

Selling a car has become incredibly easy and simple, especially online. However, you must provide the right documentation for the process to be legitimate. 

As with transferring car ownership in person, you will need to have certain paperwork ready when selling online. Failing to provide these documents can result in fees and legality and issues in the future for you and the buyer. It is best to avoid these problems by making sure you have all of your papers ready before the final sale. 

Read on to find out which documents you need, and some that might come in handy, to sell your car. 

Vehicle Title 

A vehicle’s title is a crucial document and a necessity when trying to sell an automobile. This paper signifies the owner of the vehicle. Thus, in order to transfer ownership, the buyer must have his or her name on it instead of yours. This confirms the new ownership status.

What if you don’t have your title? 

If your car is financed, the bank likely holds the car title. In this case, you will have to negotiate with your bank. Often, car owners who took an auto loan will have to finish making payments before they can obtain their title and transfer ownership. 

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell your car if you still owe payments. However, you will have to come to a repayment agreement with your bank before they hand you over the title. 

Alternatively, you may have lost your title. Fortunately, all you have to do is visit your local DMV to get a duplicate.

Furthermore, depending on which state you live in and the age of your car, you may not have received a title. Some states don’t issue titles for cars that are over 25 years. In others, cars 15 years old and older don’t receive a title. In this instance, it can be helpful to have a clear bill of sale, signed by you and the buyer. Having the document notarized will increase the legitimacy of the document. 

Smog Certification

A smog certification is a document indicating that a vehicle meets a state’s emission limitations. In other words, if a car passes a smog check, it can legally be driven on the roads in certain states. You receive a certification when your vehicle passes this test. 

However, different states have different requirements and some states don’t even require a smog check. If you are selling to a buyer in a state that does not conduct these checks then this document might not be important. 

Conversely, if you are selling to someone in your state or in another state with more stringent smog requirements, it will be important to have this document. You may even need to have your car recertified before selling it.

For example, if you’re trying to get cash for a vehicle in the City of Angels — your vehicle needs to pass the California smog check. That’s not true, however, in the State of Florida. So: do be mindful! 

Vehicle History Report

Supplying a vehicle history report is typically not required when selling your car. However, it can be useful in increasing the buyer’s trust in you and aid in price negotiations. 

Most prospective buyers will do some research on your vehicle on your car and will likely ask you for the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. This way, they can get accurate and reliable information about your car. 

Failing to provide your vehicle’s VIN might seem suspicious to some shoppers as they may assume you have something to hide. Therefore, even if you do not provide a full vehicle history report, at least supplying a VIN allows buyers to do their own research and increase their trust in you. 

Odometer Reading

An odometer reading prior to sale is generally required by law for vehicles less than 10 years old that weigh 12,000 pounds or less. This document contains basic information about the car including the year, make, model and VIN. 

Additionally, both buyer and seller’s names must be on the document as well as their signatures. Most importantly, the vehicle’s current mileage must be included as well as a notary signature or seal. 


If your vehicle is under a warranty, you should have the documentation handy, especially if the warranty is transferable. It can also help with price negotiation if a buyer is attempting to haggle down the price. Having the warranty ready will ease the transferring process. 

An As-Is Document

While this document is not required, it can be helpful to you. An as-is document clarifies that there are no implied warranties after the car is transferred to the new owner. This means that the new owner acknowledges his or her responsibility for any maintenance or repairs post-purchase. 

Having this document can give you peace of mind that the new owner will not be calling up and asking for you to make numerous repairs after you’ve sold the car.