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Car Buying

Selling Your Car: What To Do Before You Sign Over The Title

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2013

Selling your car can be a hassle. You have to take pictures, list it on the Internet and meet with potential buyers -- among many other things. It can test your negotiating skills and your patience. But while you're focused on all the big items that selling a car requires, it's easy to forget the details. We've rounded up a few major ones as a reminder.

Verify the Check

This is an important step when you sell your vehicle to another person. If you're paid with a check, we strongly suggest calling the other person's bank to verify that the check is real and the funds are available. We also suggest using your own resources (such as an online search engine) to find the phone number for the other person's bank, rather than just calling the number on the check. If the check is fake, chances are the phone number is, too.

It's also a good idea to request a cashier's check rather than a personal check. While there are exceptions to this -- for instance, if you know the buyer personally -- you don't want to discover the check bounced several days after selling the car.

Notarize the Title

While this isn't true everywhere, many states require the title to be officially notarized during the handover process. As a result, we suggest checking your title -- and your local laws -- to see if that's true where you live. The last thing you'd want to do is complete the transaction only to discover you can't legally sign over the title because a notary isn't present.

Possibly Complete an Emissions Test

Many large cities now require annual emissions tests. More important, many states say that the seller -- not the buyer -- is responsible for getting the emissions test done. That means when selling your car you may have to complete the emissions test before handing over the keys and the title. This could mean addressing check-engine lights and other faults with the car.

Make a Bill of Sale

A bill of sale can be useful for both the buyer and the seller. Basically a receipt for the car sale, the bill of sale is a document signed by both the seller and the buyer that shows they both understand the terms of the deal. As a seller, you'll want a bill of sale that says the car was sold "as is" to protect yourself in case the buyer returns later and insists you pay for repairs.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Selling Your Car: What To Do Before You Sign Over The Title - Autotrader