How to Sell a Car in California | Step by Step Guide

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The thought of putting up your car for sale can be mentally draining. The process involved can be challenging and confusing.

Little wonder, most people don’t even know how to go about it. Now calm your nerves. What if we told you that the process of switching car ownership is much easier than you imagine?

Let’s even give you some fact to chew. Do you know that car business is now sizzling in the golden state? Their prices and demand growing greater than ever.

So, whether you’re looking to upgrade your present car and get a new one, or even do away with your excess cars, now is a wonderful time to sell them. In fact, it is high time you learned how to sell a car in California.

Hence, this article will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to sell a car in California. Read through to aid you in selling your car with ease.

Keen on selling other stuff online? Read; 27 Websites To Sell Stuff Locally And Online

Things To Put in Place Before Selling Your Car

Resolving to sell your car is one thing, getting it fully ready for a new owner is vital. The method of selling the car (Dealership or privately) and the kind of car you have will determine the amount of effort you will put into preparations.

While deciding to sell through a car dealership may close the deal faster than selling privately, the payment may be quite small as opposed to the figures in your head.

However, it will be a shame to spend much money and time fixing or prepping a car that doesn’t worth much.

You can end up selling that car faster and for much more, if you follow these simple steps:

Gather your documentation

The first step to take after deciding to sell is getting your documentation ready. You don’t have to wait until a potential buyer trots along.

Pimp the car

The next course of action is to ensure that the car is in good shape. This includes a thorough cleaning of the car. If you can’t do a thorough job, you can as well visit a car wash.

Carry out an inspection

You can’t get it wrong by getting the car inspected by a technician before putting it up for sale. Implementing this can be rewarding in the long run.

It can earn you the trust of prospective buyers. Also, it puts the vehicle in a great shape that will attract better offers.

How to Sell a Car in California Without Title

If you are one of those wondering if you can sell a car in California, the answer is yes!

However, you and the buyer must sign a Certificate of Title or Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title – REG 227.

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Can You Sell a Car in California Without Smog?

In the state of California, it is illegal to sell or attempt to sell a car without a smog check. On the flip side, you can sell your car without a smog test if it is under the age of four.

To illustrate, a smog inspection is a comprehensive evaluation of a vehicle’s emissions-control equipment and systems to detect the amount and kind of pollutants it releases.

In simpler terms, it is a test that is performed on a vehicle to determine how much pollutants it produces when it is turned on.

In other words, if your vehicle is still relatively new, you can sell it without a smog check. However, whoever purchases the vehicle will have to pay a smog transfer charge, which may affect how much they’re prepared to pay for it in the first place.

How to Sell a Car in California Without Smog

If you’ve been fishing for this information, here it is. You can sell a car in California in the following ways:

1. Obtain a written agreement from a buyer to purchase a car without a smog check

If the prospective buyer doesn’t mind purchasing the car without a smog check, ensure you capture this agreement in writing.

You can only get your DMV’s approval if the buyer provides this document which will serve as proof.

2. Planned Non-Operation Filing (PNO)

You can also get your vehicle sold without a smog check if you implement a planned non-operation filing (PNO) at the time of the sale.

This will notify the DMV that you are selling a car that will not be driven after the buyer gets possession.

With this in place, you can proceed to sell the car with a smog inspection. However, ensure the buyer is aware of the PNO terms as this can affect their decision to buy or back out.

3. Sell to a Junk Car Buyer

Selling to a junk car buyer is the most convenient way to sell a car without a smog test. This is largely because most times than not, junk buyers don’t acquire cars and put them on the road most times than not.

Purchasing and taking out some parts and eventually scrapping the remains is their MO. Hence, you shouldn’t worry about carrying out a smog inspection.

4. Retiring Your Car Through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

If your car produces a lot of emissions, you can get it off your hands through your DMV. Some states are in the business of purchasing or retiring cars that emit lots of pollutants.

Therefore, you can contact your DMV and inquire if California has this program available. You could get lucky if they do since you can sell it to them without a smog inspection.

On the flip side, this deal will leave you with next to nothing in your pocket.

Want to make extra cash other than selling cars? Read: How To Make Money Online Without Paying Anything | 15 Legit Ways

How to Sell a Car in California Private Party

Selling a car to an individual other than a dealer is referred to as a private party. However, selling to a private party involves more hassle than selling to a dealer or a junk car buyer.

You can get your vehicle sold in California private party in the following steps:

1. Release-of-Liability Form

The first step in selling a car in California private party is by filling out a release-of-liability form. This covers the current mileage and register it with the DMV.

2. Maintenance Record

Next, you will have to provide maintenance to the potential buyer or private party. Well, that’s if you have such documentation.

3. Personal Items

An important move to make after deciding to sell is to rid your car of your personal belongings. You will have to empty the glove compartment and every other areas with your items.

4. Car Insurance

Most importantly, cancel the insurance on the car. Since a change of ownership is likely on the way, you can as well terminate the insurance for the car.

5. License Plates

You may have to take off the license plates if your state requires you to do so.

Selling a Car in California With a Loan

Selling a car with a loan isn’t as difficult as a sounds. Firstly, you’ll need to know how much of your debt you still owe from your lender.

This is because the loan on the car implies that the lender is partly an owner of the car. The loan on the car implies that the lender is partly an owner of the car and may have his name listed on the car title.

You can learn more about fast loans: Speedy Loans: 2022 Reviews and Offer

1. Payoff

Hence, you’ll need to ask your lender for payoff. In addition, This is the total cost of owning your vehicle outright.

Therefore, in order to sell the car, you need to pay off the loan get complete ownership of the vehicle. Once done, the lender lender will sign off on the title and relinquish ownership.

2. Determine How Much Your Car is Worth

Know the current private party worth of your vehicle, or the trade-in value, which is roughly what a dealer will give you for the car if you sell it yourself.

In most cases, a private party sale will get you more money for your automobile than a trade-in.

3. Deduct the Payoff Amount From the Worth of the Car

The next course of action is to subtract the payout amount from the vehicle’s market value.

If the result is positive, it is as clear as day that you still have equity in your car. On the other hand, if the outcome is negative, you still owe money on your car.

Private sale with positive equity

The buyer will pay the full amount to your lender, who will then reimburse you with the balance. On the other hand, the buyer will make a separate payment to you and pay your outstanding loan debt to the lender.

The title can then be signed by you and the lender and given to the buyer. In addition, the buyer brings the signed title and other required documentation to the state’s DMV to obtain a new registration and title.

With a title in hand, a private-party sale can be a lot easier. You might be able to get an unsecured personal loan to cover the total amount owed on the car if you have good credit.

The lender will not be included on the title with an unsecured loan. The title will be delivered to you, and the vehicle will be solely yours.

However, even if your credit is exceptional, unsecured personal loans have higher interest rates than most vehicle loans. You can pay it immediately as soon as the buyer’s cheque is deposited.

Private sale with negative equity

You will have to pay the lender the difference between the sale price and the amount you owe if you owe more than what your car is worth.

Next, you and a loan representative will sign the title and hand it over to the buyer, who will acquire a new title and registration.

In addition, you the buyer will make payment to your lender while you will complete whatever is left of it. As a matter of fact, you can offset the difference with a personal loan if you have good credit.

However, personal loans are more costly than most vehicle loans, so you’ll want to pay them off as soon as feasible.


What Paperwork Do I Need To Sell A Car?

In deciding to sell your car, you’ll require the following documents:

  • Car title
  • Bill of sale
  • Owner’s manual
  • Emissions test documentation
  • Warranty documents
  • Service records

Is a bill of sale required in California?

In California, private car sales do not require a bill of sale. Nevertheless, including a bill of sale when selling or buying a car can serve as confirmation of the transaction, the transfer date, and the purchase amount.

Can I sell a car I just bought without registering it in California?

Yes, you can. However, you must have a valid driver’s license as well as proof of ownership of the vehicle.

This is the same bill you received when you first bought the car. It will also serve as proof that you can sell it without registering it.

Can you return a used car you just bought in California?

If you have to return the used car, you must do it within two business days by the dealer’s closing time (except the contract provides you with more time).

Can you walk away from a car deal after signing?

A consumer has no federally legislated right to revoke a vehicle purchase within three days after signing the sales contract.

What happens if you don't transfer a title within 10 days CA?

When the buyer fails to transfer the title, you could end up with a lot of legal issues.

In addition, you will be notified of any parking tickets, expired registration, or expired tabs tickets.

Furthermore, since you are still registered as the vehicle’s owner, you may be sued if the automobile is involved in an accident


Getting your car out of the garage and off the market entirely comes with little or no hassle. Deciding to sell to a dealer or private party is your call.

While selling cars in the state might appear scary because of its strict laws, it protects the interests of both parties involved in the transaction.

Having an in-depth understanding of these rules and applications of your DMV will aid you in effortlessly closing the deal in no time.

We hope this article touched on every aspect of selling a car in California. Kindly reach through the comment section for feedback or @



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