California has a lot more requirements for selling used cars compared to other states. For example, the only paperwork needed to sell a car in New York is the original title. You sign over the title and give it to the new owner. Meanwhile, you take the plates and turn them into the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Selling a used car in California is a bit more complicated.

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Take our word for it. As a company that pays cash for cars in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, we are intimately familiar with all the paperwork requirements. That is one of the reasons we think you are better off selling your used car to us. We know what is required to keep the state happy.

Regardless of who you decide to sell to though, here is what the state requires in terms of information documentation:

The Title

A car’s title is the document that establishes legal ownership. As the legal owner of your car, you transfer ownership to a buyer by signing over the title. If you are selling a car with liens still attached to it, any and all lien holders must also sign the title. The title is signed by all applicable parties and then turned over to the buyer.

There are cases when buyers do not have copies of their original titles. That is not necessarily a problem. If your title has been lost, stolen, etc. prior to sale, you have two options. The first option is to apply for a duplicate California title before you get ready to sell. The other option is to obtain a Form REG 227 (Application for Duplicate Paperless Title).

You complete the sections of the form that pertain to you. Then you give that form to the buyer at the time of sale. They complete the rest of the form and submit it to the DMV. A new title will be issued in the buyer’s name.

A Valid Smog Certificate

California law is pretty strict about car inspections and air quality. To sell your car, you will need to present a valid smog certificate to the buyer. Smog certificates are only good for 90 days. Also note that there are some exceptions to this particular rule:

  • Registration Renewal – A smog certificate is not required if you register the vehicle within 90 days of sale and present a valid certificate at that time.
  • Newer Cars – A smog certificate is not required if the car you are selling is eight years old or newer.
  • Older Cars – You do not need to provide a smog certificate if the car you are selling is from the 1975 model year or earlier. For all intents and purposes, this means classic cars do not require smog certificates.

The smog certificate is a big thing in California. If your used car cannot pass a standard emissions test prior to sale, you will have to have it repaired. That is the way it goes.

An Odometer Reading

Along with the title and a valid smog certificate, you have to provide an odometer reading as well. This requirement applies to all vehicles that are 10 years old or newer. Odometer readings can be recorded on the certificate of title at the time you sign the title over to the buyer. In the absence of a title, you can record theodometer reading on Form REG 262 (Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment).

Release of Liability Form

This next form, the release of liability form, is not something you give to the buyer. You submit it to the state via the DMV. You do so for your own protection. The release of liability form tells the state that you no longer own the vehicle. That way, you will not be liable for any fines incurred by the new owner. If the car is involved in an accident, you will not be liable for damages.

California law requires that this form be filed with the DMV within 10 days of sale. Failing to do so could lead to hassles you really don’t want to deal with. Incidentally, a copy of the form should have been attached to your title when you received it. If not, you can get a copy at any local DMV location.

Optional Paperwork

You can sell your used car in California by meeting the four documentation requirements already discussed. If you choose to, you can include some additional paperwork. Your optional paperwork starts with a duplicate registration card.

Technically, you do not need a registration card to sell your vehicle. The buyer can just apply for a new registration after the transaction. But the DMV recommends that you get your own duplicate registration card prior to sale, if the original card was lost, stolen, or damaged. That way, there is no question that the car is legally registered to you at the time of sale.

You might also want to gather all the service records on the vehicle along with a California vehicle history report. Your service records give potential buyers a history of all the work you have had done on the car. They show how well you have taken care of it.

As for the vehicle history report, it will likely include information similar to your service records. But it will also tell potential buyers about any work previous owners had done. It will also have information regarding previous accidents, previous odometer readings, and so forth.

Finally, consider giving the buyer a generic bill of sale to complete the transaction. A bill of sale proves the transaction took place and provides yet another piece of documentation that makes it easier for the buyer to obtain a new title and registration.

Again, remember that we buy cars throughout Southern California. If you are looking to sell in San Bernardino, Kern, Santa Barbara, or any other counties in the region, contact Car Fast Cash first. We make selling your used car quick, easy, and financially attractive.