Whether you live in the Western Region, Capital Region, Central Region, Southern Region, or Eastern Shore Region of Maryland, if you are thinking about privately selling your used car or truck, you’ve come to the right place. With an estimated 1.95 million registered trucks and cars in the state of Maryland, it’s no wonder that thousands of private vehicle sellers from the Old Line State 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 Maryland so you can sell your car quickly for the most cash.
Remember, most states consider the vehicle title a legal document, so the legal names (no nicknames) of both parties involved should be used, along with legible handwriting using 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: Get the vehicle inspected
Step 2: Organize and gather all related vehicle documentation
Step 3: Bill of Sale
Step 4: Transfer the title
Step 5: Remove your plates and cancel your insurance
In Maryland, sellers are required to get a vehicle safety inspection by a licensed Maryland inspection station. Car dealers, service stations, and specialized automobile service centers can all be licensed as Maryland inspection stations and there is likely at least one in your area. If your vehicle passes this inspection, you’ll receive a Maryland Safety Inspection Certificate that is valid for 90 days. If your vehicle doesn’t sell in 90 days, you’ll have to get another inspection performed before you can legally sell it.
Find all maintenance records, the owner’s manual and other paperwork related to the vehicle. If you can provide the buyer with extensive and detailed maintenance records, this will help provide the buyer with confidence that you’ve maintained the car in a proper and regular manner. Remember, your mechanic or dealership may have electronic records if you didn’t keep the paper invoices. You may even want to consider including a vehicle history report from a service like CarFax or AutoCheck to give the buyer more confidence that your car is well-cared for.
The most important document when selling a car is the certificate of title. If there is a lien on the title, the lienholder must release interest in the vehicle before the car is sold. This can be achieved either by the seller paying off the car or by the lienholder providing a letter of lien release. If you’ve paid off your car loan, lienholders are required to send you a completed Maryland Notice of Security Interest Filing (Form VR-217) or a letter of lien release on the lienholder’s official letterhead. If you can’t pay off the car, then a lien release statement from your lienholder must be submitted to Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).
A bill of sale isn’t required for private party vehicle sales in Maryland, but it’s always a good idea to have a bill of sale signed by the seller and the buyer with a copy for both to transfer ownership and give legal protection to both parties. If there’s a space on your title for a purchase price, then you do not need a bill of sale and the buyer will be taxed based on the purchase price written on the title. If there is not a space for the purchase price, then you do need a bill of sale so the MVA knows how much to tax the buyer. If a bill of sale is required, then you need to complete Form VR-181. On this form, you enter basic vehicle information like the year, make, and model plus the odometer reading, the purchase price, and signatures from both the buyer and the seller. Both signatures need to be notarized and this can be done either at the same time or separately by two different notaries.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) odometer disclosure requirements were updated in December 2020 impacting certain private vehicle sales in Georgia: 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. Maryland provides Odometer Disclosure form VR-197 on their website.
If the vehicle’s title has been lost, stolen or badly damaged, you can get a replacement/duplicate Maryland title by filling out Form VR-018 and filling out the Duplicate Title Affidavit that’s on the form. With that form filled out plus a $20 fee you can get a duplicate title.
When selling a car privately in Maryland, the buyer and the seller both need to fill out the relevant sections on the back of the title. This information includes the legal name, address, and signature of the buyer and the seller(s) along with the date of the sale, the odometer reading, and the purchase price (if there’s a space for it). When this is filled out accurately and legibly, it makes it easy for the buyer to transfer registration and acquire a new plate.
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.
If you’re looking to gift a vehicle or transfer a title to a relative, you can follow the same process that is outlined here. The new owner will need to pay a title transfer fee, but no state tax applies if the car is being gifted with no charge. As for inheriting a car, the Maryland DMV has some steps outlined that you can find here. If you are seeking information on transferring the title from a deceased owner, Maryland provides an overview here.
Maryland also makes these additional vehicle registration forms available on their website.
The seller must remove their license plates before handing the vehicle over to the buyer. If you do not do so, you may be liable for any violations after the buyer has taken possession of the vehicle. After the sale is complete, you need to either transfer your plates to a different vehicle or return them to the MVA. Maryland is insistent on returning your plates and retaining the receipt before you cancel your insurance. This is the best way to ensure that the vehicle in question is never being driven uninsured.
Make sure to cancel your insurance as soon as possible after you’ve returned or transferred your plates, so you don’t continue paying to insure a car that you no longer own.
For more information, visit Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration website.
There are a few documents which sellers of vehicles in Maryland will need:
It depends. If there’s a space on the title for the purchase price, then a bill of sale is not required. If there is not a space for the purchase price on the title, then a bill of sale with notarized signatures from both the buyer and the seller is required.
Yes, your license plate must be removed and either returned to Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) or transferred to another vehicle that you own. If you return the plates, make sure you hold on to your receipt.
A vehicle MVA Bill of Sale (Form VR-181) only needs to be notarized when and if there is not a space for the purchase price on the title. In those cases, you’ll need to have a Bill of Sale witnessed by a notary to finalize the transaction. A notarized Bill of Sale is also needed if the sale price is lower than the vehicle’s book value and if the vehicle is 7 years old or newer. A notarized MVA Bill of Sale is not required if the sale price is more than the book value or if the vehicle is 8 years old or older.
No. When you privately sell a vehicle in Maryland, the seller and buyer are not required to sign the vehicle title in the presence of a notary.
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