How to Sell a Car in Massachusetts

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The steps and process for selling a vehicle online are different in every state. Learn how to sell your used car or truck privately in Massachusetts.

Whether you live in the Berkshires, Cape Code, Pioneer Valley or the Boston Metro area, if you are thinking about privately selling your used car or truck, you’ve come to the right place. With an estimated 2 million registered trucks and cars in the state of Massachusetts, it is no wonder that thousands of private car owners from the Commonwealth have used Autotrader to sell their car. Below, we’ve outlined the five steps and forms required for how to sell a car in the state of Massachusetts so you can sell your car quickly for the most cash. Remember, most U.S. states consider the vehicle title a legal document which is why it is advised to use the legal names (no nicknames) of both parties involved along with legible handwriting using a black or blue ink. Mistakes, errors and using White Out may void the document so be careful and take your time filling it out.

Step 1: Allow the buyer to have the car inspected by a third party
Step 2: Organize and gather all related vehicle documentation
Step 3: Bill of Sale
Step 4: Transfer the title
Step 5: Remove your license plates

Step 1: Allow the buyer to have the car inspected by a third party

Most vehicle shoppers who buy a car privately pay for a pre-purchase vehicle inspection conducted by a qualified and licensed auto mechanic of their choosing. Although the buyer pays for this inspection, the seller and buyer must agree on when and where the inspection is to be held. If the inspection does find any issues with the car, it is a good idea for you as the seller to keep the report for your records.

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Step 2: Organize and gather all related vehicle documentation

Find all maintenance records, owner’s manual and other paperwork related to the vehicle.

The existing safety and emission inspection report are not transferrable in Massachusetts since state law requires all used vehicles to be inspected within seven days of its registration after a change of ownership occurs. Read more frequently asked questions on Massachusetts inspections here.

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Step 3: Bill of Sale

A Bill of Sale should include the following information:

  • Year and Make of the Vehicle
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Date of Sale
  • Purchase Price
  • Legal full names and signatures of the buyer and seller

Having a Bill of Sale can be helpful if problems arise when the buyer goes to transfer the title or register the vehicle in their name. Many private owners notarize their Bill of Sale as a best practice.

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Step 4: Transfer the title

If the vehicle’s title has been lost or stolen or badly damaged, you’ll need to apply for a replacement vehicle title and pay the associated fees prior to selling the car. If the vehicle’s owner has passed away, Massachusetts allows the surviving spouse, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate or a court appointed personal representative to transfer the certificate of title.

If you are unaware of the status of your Massachusetts vehicle’s certificate of title or accuracy of the lienholder information, you can check the vehicle status online here. You can give the original title and a lien holder release letter, which must be on the lienholder’s original letterhead (copies are not allowed).

To legally and properly transfer ownership of a vehicle title in Massachusetts, fill out the “Assignment of Title” on the back of the vehicle’s “Certificate of Title” with the following information:

  • The date of the sale
  • Purchase price
  • Buyer’s legal name, address and signature
  • Seller’s legal name, address and signature
  • Odometer reading

The buyer will need to complete a Registration and Title Application. If ownership of the vehicle is changing or if an owner is added or deleted from a title, this is considered a transfer of ownership and a new original title must be applied for. If the vehicle is being sold between family members (parent, sibling, spouse or child), a sales tax exemption form MVU-26 must be filled out. The exemption does not apply if transferred from a grandparent, cousin, uncle or aunt. If the vehicle is being gifted, the person gifting the vehicle must complete sales tax exemption form MVU-24. If you need to change any of the existing information on your vehicle’s title before selling it including making an odometer correction, you can read about making the requested title changes here. If the odometer reading needs to be corrected on your title, you’ll need a Notarized Affidavit for Correction.

If there is more than one owner showing on the title, the following number of signatures will be required based on the connection between the names: And – All persons listed must sign. Or – Either seller can sign, only one signature required. And/Or - Both sellers must sign. If no connection listed, it will default to ‘and’ and all owners (sellers) must sign.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) odometer disclosure requirements were updated in December 2020 impacting certain private vehicle sales in Massachusetts: For a vehicle transfer that occurs from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2030, any vehicle of model year 2011 or newer (2012, 2013, etc.) will require an odometer disclosure. Starting on January 1, 2031, any vehicle that is less than 20 model years old will require an odometer disclosure. Previously, the NHTSA required disclosure was for only the first 10 years. Cars older than 2010 are exempt from odometer disclosures.

Important: Cars purchased via a private party sale in Massachusetts are subject to the state’s vehicle Lemon Laws and may be able to be returned within 30 days if the buyer can prove the seller knew about the defect but didn’t disclose it.

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Step 5: Remove your license plates

Before you complete the sale, take your license plates off the vehicle. Unless the license plate is transferred to another vehicle, cancel your registration online or at a Massachusetts RMV office as soon as possible. Once a vehicle registration is cancelled, it cannot be driven on any public way in the state. License plates do not have to be returned to the RMV when a vehicle’s registration is cancelled but they must be either destroyed or recycled. To cancel a registration when there are two vehicle owners listed on the title, you must complete the Affidavit for Cancellation of Registration.

For more information, visit the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles’ website.

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Questions about selling your car in Massachusetts? We have answers.

Do I remove my license plate when I sell a car in Massachusetts?

Yes. Unless the license plate is transferred to another vehicle, your license plates must be either destroyed or recycled. You do not have to turn your plates to your local Massachusetts RMV office.

Is a Bill of Sale required for selling a car in Massachusetts?

A vehicle Bill of Sale is not legally required when transferring a vehicle between private individuals.

What paperwork do I need to privately sell a car in Massachusetts?

There are several documents which sellers of vehicles will need:

  1. A Bill of Sale (although not legally required)
  2. The vehicle’s original or replacement certificate of title
  3. Current maintenance and vehicle records
  4. A Registration and Title Application (filled out by the buyer)

How many days after you buy a car can you return it in Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts inspection law protects buyers since they must have the vehicle inspected at a registered inspection station within seven days of registering it. If the seller didn’t disclose a known problem, the buyer has 30 days to cancel the sale and they could receive a full refund. If the estimated costs of the repairs exceed 10% of the purchase price, the buyer will be entitled to a full refund.

Does a vehicle title have to be notarized in Massachusetts?

No. When you privately sell a vehicle in Massachusetts, the seller and buyer are not required to sign the vehicle title in the presence of a notary.

Does a bill of sale have to be notarized in Massachusetts?

No. When you privately sell a car in Massachusetts, the Bill of Sale does not need to be notarized. Some buyers and sellers do so anyways as it can add another level of protection to both parties.

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