How to Sell a Car in San Diego: Laws, Paperwork, and Methods to Consider

January 27, 2012

If you want to sell a car in San Diego, you will need to know how to go about selling the vehicle and completing the needed paperwork in order to transfer the title. Whether you want to sell your car to an individual or sell a junk car in San Diego to a junkyard, the process is basically the same. Even if you want to donate a car in San Diego, many of the steps will be the same. So, here is a handy step by step guide to help you sell your car in San Diego, California.

What You Will Need

  • Car to sell
  • California Certificate of Title
  • Smog certification (if vehicle is more than 4 years old)

Step 1 - Find a Buyer and Negotiate a Selling Price

Of course, the first thing you need to do is find someone willing to purchase your vehicle. Once you have found a buyer, negotiate a selling price that is fair to both you and the buyer. If you're unsure of a fair price for your vehicle, go online and search for vehicles that are similar to yours. If you are thinking of donating your vehicle, search the Yellow Pages for charities or other organizations that help those that are less fortunate.

Step 2 - Get a Smog Certification If Required

If your vehicle is more than four years old, you'll be required to get a smog certification before you can transfer the title to the new buyer. For the purposes of selling your vehicle, a smog certification will be valid for up to 90 days. So, if you haven't had your vehicle tested within the last three months, you'll need to have it tested again before transferring the title to the buyer.

Step 2 - Provide a Bill of Sale

Once you're ready to complete the transaction with the buyer, you need to provide a bill of sale. A bill of sale may not be very complicated; however, it must contain the following basic information:

  • Seller's name and address
  • Buyer's name and address
  • Vehicle identification number and description of the vehicle being sold
  • Odometer mileage reading
  • Sales amount
  • Date of transaction

If you are donating your vehicle, make sure you receive a receipt for the vehicle that includes the estimated market value of the vehicle instead of the vehicle selling price. You will need this to apply for a deduction on your income taxes.

Step 3 - Endorse the Title to the Buyer

After you receive the payment for your vehicle, complete the area on the backside of your certificate of title to transfer the title to the new buyer. Then, simply give the certificate of title to the buyer. The buyer will need both the certificate of title and the bill of sale in order to transfer the title into his/her name.

Step 4 - Report the Sale

After you've completed the transaction, you should stop by the nearest branch of your Department of Motor Vehicles and report the sale to the state. By law, you must notify the DMV within five days of selling your vehicle.

You can accomplish a notice of transfer and release of liability on the California DMV website; however, the transfer will not be legally completed until the buyer goes in applied for the transfer and pays the required transfer fees.

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