How to Sell a Car in Washington State: Laws and Paperwork to be Familiar with

January 27, 2012

Each state has its own rules and regulations, and when you sell a car in Washington State, you need to obey the laws there. It’s not an especially involved procedure for the seller, but you have to be aware of the time limits involved. Although some of the responsibility lies with the seller, the whole procedure will be much simpler if you and the buyer go together to a vehicle licensing office together to take care of things.

Step One - The Sale

When you’re getting ready to privately sell a car in Washington State, you should make sure you have all the paperwork handy first. You’ll need to have the registration with, and make sure the seller section is filled out. You’ll also need to have your emissions certificate, making sure it’s up to date (you need to pass emissions every other year). When someone wants to buy your vehicle, negotiate a price and come to a deal.

Step 2 - Paperwork

You need to take care of the paperwork as soon as you sell a car in Washington State. Have the buyer fill out their details on the registration. You need to write up a bill of sale, stating what you’ve sold, when you've sold it, and how much the selling price was. Don’t hand this over until you’ve received payment, either in cash or a cashier’s check.

Finally, you need to make out a 'report of sale' to be legal. This needs to contain the date of the sale, the vehicle identification number (you can find this on the car or on the registration), the number on the license plate, your name and address, and the buyer’s name and address. This isn’t an official form, just write or print it out on a piece of paper. It functions as a safeguard for you.

Step Three - Filing

You need the file the report of sale in five days. You can do it online for nothing, or at a vehicle licensing office, which will involve a fee, as these are privately run. The intent is to protect you in case the buyer runs up parking tickets or impound fees before transferring the title to their name. Make absolutely certain that you file the report within the five day limit.

If possible, the simplest way to deal with all the paperwork at one time is to go with the buyer to a vehicle licensing office immediately after the sale. They’re located in towns and neighborhoods all over the state.

Step Four - Vehicle Licensing Office

If you go together to the vehicle licensing office when you sell a car in Washington State, you can immediately transfer the title. The seller needs to be aware they will have to pay what’s called a use tax instead of sales tax on the vehicle. This is the sales tax rate plus 0.3 percent of the purchase price.

There will be another fee payable for transferring the title here, but once it’s done, you know that you no longer have anything to worry about regarding the car.

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