Car Bill Of Sale Explained

We explain what a bill of sale is, why it matters, and what to do if you lose it.


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New car, check. Vehicle title, check. Bill of sale...wait. What? If you find yourself wondering if you need a bill of sale for a car or are missing the bill of sale from your records, don't panic. Here are a few simple steps for you to get a new one and why a bill of sale matters in the first place.

What is a bill of sale?

The bill of sale for car is a legal transfer of ownership between the buyer and the seller. The seller is responsible for generating the document. In the case of a new car sale, the dealership will provide a bill of sale. For a private sale, the person selling the vehicle will create it. Both are legally binding.

Why do I need one?

Many states require a vehicle's bill of sale to transfer a title. But the process can vary from state to state. Many states do not require a bill of sale to certify ownership. But even if your state doesn't require it, it may be a good idea to execute one anyway, in the case you move or just for peace of mind.

Where can I get one?

If you're a seller and looking to draft a bill of sale for car, there are many templates online to make the process easier. Platforms such as Microsoft Office, Adobe, and Google Docs have templates where you simply fill out the information and then print or email the executed document. Some states require that they approve the document template, so it's always a good idea to check your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website or office for guidelines.

Can I write my bill of sale?

Yes, some states allow you to write your own. Whether yours is hand-crafted or downloaded online, you must ensure to include the following information:

  • Buyer's and seller's legal names, addresses, and signatures. (you may also want to have phrasing like: "I declare under penalty of perjury that this information is true and correct.")
  • Vehicle information such as the year, make, body type, and model
  • Vehicle identification number, or VIN
  • Car's title number
  • Date of sale and purchase price
  • Odometer reading

Again, to make this legally binding, you'll want to triple-check your state's local requirements so your bill of sale has all pertinent information.

What if I lost my car's bill of sale?

If you've lost your bill of sale for a car, don't panic. You can take a few simple steps to salvage or recreate this vital document.

  1. Double-check the common places, including your car's glovebox. You wouldn't be the first person to stuff the paper inside a new vehicle and not clean it out until you sell it.
  2. Check the DMV. While it's not always the most appealing option, your state's DMV may very well have the document on file from the original transfer of ownership.
  3. If you need to show proof of ownership, you can use information such as the payment record (i.e. credit card receipt or check) and any emails or texts to recreate the transaction.
  4. Contact the original seller/buyer. Even if you've lost the bill of sale, very few people want the liability of someone else's vehicle on their hands. So if you still have their number, reach out and explain the situation.

Thus, like the vehicle's title, VIN, and warranty, the bill of sale for the car is a vital document and integral to the sales process. Make sure that you have one. When you get home, file it away somewhere secure, and even backup a digital copy in the cloud for safekeeping.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
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Amelia Dalgaard
From reading my dad’s car magazines under the covers to writing in the automotive space, my job is a dream come true. I am the woman who took her toddlers to car shows and married the man that thought a test drive was the perfect first date. I love nothing more than helping all consumers find a vehicle that will enhance their lives.