Is a Bill of Sale Just a Receipt?

January 27, 2012

With few exceptions, the standard Bill of Sale receipt in an automotive transaction is little more than the equivalent of a placeholder--a receipt--unless the deal happens to be a private-party sale. The key reason is that in an auto dealership, whether new or used, the deal starts when the Purchase and Sales agreement is written up and the real deal is finished when the P&S is signed by the sales manager and the customer.

The Purchase and Sales agreement (P&S) is an order of magnitude more important than the standard Bill of Sale derives from the fact that the P&S not only contains all of the information you will find in a standard Bill of Sale, but also a great deal more.

Information Differences

Here are some of the key differences between the documents:

  • Name, address, phone – both carry this information
  • Car sold/purchased – both carry this information
  • Price – both carry this information
  • Trade information – P&S
  • VIN of both vehicles – P&S
  • Special conditions – P&S
  • Sales Tax information – P&S
  • Registration/Carrier information – P&S


The P&S is a far more powerful legal instrument than the standard automobile Bill of Sale. It is also easy to find at Staples or you can find examples of blank purchase and sales agreements on the Internet. Once you've found the P&S and begin filling it out you quickly, find out why it is a more powerful instrument.

Bill of Sale-Quite Simple

Contrast this to the standard car bill of sale. When you have completed drawing up the bill of sale, it contains little more than just the owner and seller names, addresses, vehicle sold and Vehicle Identification Number and, if possible, a title number. That's about the size of it.

The P&S, at this point, not only contains this information about both cars, but also will spell out any deliverables that you want to negotiate. Such as, the date of pick up, whether this is an “as is sale” and any other inclusions you might think of. It is quite a powerful document, far more than the standard car bill of sale.