Selling a Used Car, Part 4: Closing the Deal

This is the fourth and final installment of a 4-part series about my recent experience in selling my used car. The other posts in the series are:

I now have a willing buyer and we agreed to a price. I still have to take care of several items in order to protect myself in the sale.

How do I make sure I’m not liable for problems developed days or months after the sale? I need a legal contract that says clearly the car is sold AS IS. I used the free Vehicle Bill of Sale form from Your state DMV may also have an official form. Check out links on

How do I make sure the money I receive from the buyer is real? The cash or cashier’s check the buyer brings over could be fake. I got the tip from my co-worker — don’t take anything from the buyer. Go to a bank together with the buyer and have the buyer buy a cashier’s check or money order there. Only take the cashier’s check or money order on the spot directly from the cashier’s hand.

How do I make sure the buyer registers the car in their name and removes me from liability? If the buyer uses the car in a bank robbery, I don’t want the car traced back to me. On the back of the title, there are fields for transferring to the title to the new owner. I insisted that the buyer filled those out first. I matched the name and address to her driver’s license before I signed over the title. I took pictures of the front and back as proof for the ownership transfer. I then filed the DMV’s liability release form online immediately after I got home.

All done. I have a legal contract, a good check directly from a bank employee, and complete paperwork in good order. I handed over the keys and she drove the car away.

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  1. Ted Valentine says

    Good post. I’m glad you linked this.

    Interesting, I sold a car privately for the first time about the same time as you last year. My experience was more disorganized and had more missteps.

    First, I tried the newspaper ad. In fact I did two one month ads. I received zero calls. That was a waste of about $200.

    Second I did Twice. I received no leads there either. In fact there was very little traffic to my ad. That was about $125 more.

    The reason I placed both ads twice was because I started trying to sell right before Xmas. Then I tried again in Jan.

    Then I went to Craigslist and got some leads but no sale.

    Finally I bought an ad in the local Wheels and Deals trade magazine. I recieved one very low ball cash offer (17% below KBB private party). I recieved another offer about 12% below KBB private party and accepted.

    My car had a KBB private party value of ~12k. I found it is much harder to sell something over 10k private party.

    After expenses I still netted about $1,000 over the best dealer offer I could get.

    We took the cash and paid in full for a used Honda van bought private party. We had to make the change due to a new family edition.

    It was difficult, but if I had gone the dealer route I would’ve paid $14k for the van and traded my car for $8, leaving a $6k balance. Instead I ended up slightly above water.

    Due to inexperience, I was nowhere near as meticulous as you with the money and details. The guy was an old farmer with his wife. We met at a fast foot chain near my work. He gave me half in cash and the other half a personal check. We called the bank and verified the funds. I took the check directly to my bank. I held the title until the check cleared. Then I mailed it and he sent me my plate back.

    Word to the wise about CarFax. Its worthless. The CarFax for my car was wrong. It listed 5 owners when there were only 2. This cost me a chance at a sale.

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