How to sell your car in California

When you’re selling a car, it’s always better to do it yourself—because you’ll get a lot more money than trading or selling it to a dealer.

It can be a little hard to know where to start, and laws are different in each state, so we’ve created this guide to make it easy to understand what you need to do if you’re selling a car in California.

Here’s what you need:

  • The title – also known as the “pink slip.” It’s the certificate that proves you own the car. OR, Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title (REG 227) Form from the DMV
  • A smog certificate – (unless your car is 4 years old or newer. OR if you’ve submitted a smog certificate as part of registration renewal within 90 days of the sale date.)
  • The odometer reading – (exactly how many miles are on the car)

You’ll want to be extra careful when you’re filling out the title—or any other DMV-issued documents—because any errors or scratch-outs will mean you have to fill out a lot of additional paperwork.

Also keep in mind that the title—even though it’s just a piece of paper—is extremely important. If it’s stolen, someone could sign ownership of your car over to themselves or someone else. It’s a good idea to keep it in a safe place—not with you or in the car—until you’re absolutely ready to sign ownership of the car over to your buyer.

If you and the seller don’t go to the DMV together, take pictures of the signed title, so that you have a record of it. It’s also a good idea to submit the Release of Liability—the part you, as the seller, tear off and need to file with the DMV within 5 days of the sale—online, at www.dmv.ca.gov. Print the confirmation when you’re done, so you have proof that you filed the transfer.

Getting ready to sell your car

Aside from the documentation and transfer process required by the state, there are some other things that can be helpful to consider when you’re preparing to sell your car—things that can help you be more informed and sell your car more quickly.

One of the first things to consider when you decide to list your car for sale is how much to ask for it. This guide covers some of the important factors you’ll want to consider for pricing, as well as some things you can do to make your car most appealing to buyers.

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