DIY Guide to Vehicle Paperwork

paperworkWhen buying or selling a car, boat or RV, there’s a lot of paperwork you need to gather, complete and exchange before the sale is finalized. Naturally, this can be quite the headache, so we’ve put together this DIY Guide to Paperwork to help you make sure everything’s signed and in order, ensuring the deal is closed legally and without a hitch.

Step 1 – Check in with the DMV

Contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what documents are needed in order to sell a car, boat or RV in your area. If the sale is conducted across state lines, contact the DMV in both states. Note that many local agencies have guides on their websites to help you through the process.

Step 2 – Creating a bill of sale

What all to include in the bill of sale — sometimes called a purchase agreement — varies slightly from the type of vehicle or vessel you’re selling. If you’re having trouble creating one from scratch, there are plenty of online templates that can be used or easily adapted.

For cars and RVs, the bill of sale should include:

  • Price
  • Purchase date
  • Description (make, model and any upgrades)
  • Odometer reading
  • VIN number
  • Name/address of buyer and seller
  • Driver’s license number of buyer/seller
  • Seller’s statement of vehicle ownership
  • Seller’s statement that there ARE outstanding debts against the vehicle (if applicable)
  • Seller’s statement that there are no outstanding debts against the vehicle
  • Signatures of the buyer(s) and seller(s)

For boats, the bill of sale is very similar to that of a car, and should include:

  • Price
  • Purchase date
  • Description and hull number
  • Signatures of the buyer(s) and seller(s)

Step 3 – Title (and lien)

Titles are issued individually by state, and are very similar for cars, boats and RVs. Every time a motorized vehicle or vessel exchanges owners, a new title must be created or updated. Make sure the title is filled out entirely, front to back, with all appropriate names and signatures of the buyer(s) and seller(s) — including a lienholder, if applicable. The exact specifics of issuing a title varies by state so, again, check with your local DMV.

If the original title is missing, a replacement title must be acquired. The DMV has a fantastic state-by-state guide to this process, which starts with filling out an application for a replacement title. In some states, you can complete this step entirely online, while in others it requires an in-person visit to the DMV or simply mailing in an application.

The title must include info about an outstanding loan on the vehicle/vessel, as the buyer won’t be able to fully register it until the loan is cleared. Likewise, if the seller is paying off a lien with the money from the sale, the buyer should contact the lienholder to make sure the money will be used for its intended purpose, getting proof that the loan will be paid off. In some cases, it’s required that the loan be paid off before the sale, so check with the lienholder to acquire the appropriate paperwork in this scenario. When a lien is involved, a lien release must be attached to the vehicle’s/vessel’s title if the county treasurer hasn’t yet released the lien.

Here’s a list of to-dos when the title exchanges hands:

  • For cars and RVs, vehicle plates should be returned to the previous owner
  • In most cases, the buyer must complete an application for the title and registration within 30 days of the purchase
  • Include the completed bill of sale with the completed title
  • Buyer submits the completed application to the county treasurer and pays appropriate fees

Step 4 – Other paperwork

Aside from the bill of sale and title, the seller should hand over any warranty cards, maintenance records and any other paperwork before the final sale of the vehicle/vessel. The owner should also cancel his or her insurance once the sale is final.

Some boats are purchased with a trailer, which, depending on your state, may require a separate set of paperwork to acquire a title. Your local DMV will likely have a checklist of all the necessary information.

While usually not required, notarizing all of the paperwork to validate signatures is a good idea.

For more information on how PaySAFE can work for your next major purchase or sale of a titled vehicle, visit our website.

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2 comments

  1. […] aren’t many people who look forward to filling out paperwork; the very term usually breeds irritation and stress when uttered to anyone who has spent time […]

  2. […] For more tips about paperwork and documentation, see our post on how to tell if a car has a clean title and our DIY guide to vehicle paperwork. […]

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