Bill of Sale Requirements in California
A bill of sale is a legal document that serves as a record of a sale and provides details of that sale.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV) provides a state-approved bill of sale form, in addition to other forms required for buying and selling cars.
California Bill of Sale and Related Forms
The CA DMV offers the following forms for use during the sale of a vehicle:
- Bill of sale form.
- Odometer disclosure (required for vehicles 10 years old and under).
- Release of liability form (required for all sellers).
How to Write a Bill of Sale in California
The CA DMV provides a printable Bill of Sale form (Form REG 135). Include the following:
- The names and addresses of both they buyer and the seller.
- The seller's signature.
- Vehicle information, including the make, model, year, and vehicle identification number (VIN).
- The sell date and price paid.
NOTE: If the vehicle was a gift, there's space to indicate the relationship and the gift value.
This bill of sale form is designed so that both the buyer and seller can keep a copy, so be sure that both parties complete the top and bottom of the form.
Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment
The Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment form (Form REG 262) is a single document that provides space for:
- General bill of sale information.
- Odometer disclosure. (You must provide an odometer disclosure if the vehicle is under 10 years old).
- Power of attorney.
You cannot download this form; it's printed on security paper. Call the DMV at (800) 777-0133 to have a copy mailed to you.
Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability
After selling a used car, you must complete the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (Form REG 138). You can download the form or complete it online using the state's Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) System.
This form releases the seller from liability. This means if the new owner or anyone else involves the vehicle in a civil or criminal offense, the state won't hold you responsible. However, the record isn't completely updated until the new owner submits an application for title transfer.
You must submit this form within 5 calendar days of selling the vehicle.
Why Use a Bill of Sale?
If You Are the Seller
Having a basic bill of sale helps you keep a record of the transaction details. California doesn't legally require one, but without it, you could lose valuable information like the sale date, purchase price, and buyer's contact information.
If You Are the Buyer
Although the DMV provides a bill of sale form, it doesn't require the buyer to present one for registration unless the seller was required to provide the odometer disclosure and power of attorney information (see “Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment" above).
Still, you can use the bill of sale when you register your newly-purchased motor vehicle or vessel to help the DMV determine the Vehicle License Fee (VLF). The bill of sale will list the purchase price; without the purchase price, the CA DMV VLF is based on the vehicle's approximate value, which might be higher than the car's actual value.
Also, having a bill of sale helps you keep record of all the important details of the sale, as well as the seller's name and contact information.
NOTE: A properly completed vehicle title also provides the purchase price.
Junk Vehicles and Bills of Sale
Junk vehicles are vehicles that have been dismantled because of wrecks, abandonment, or other events that have left them too damaged to operate.
In some cases, junk vehicles are repaired and rebuilt. We explain this process in our Salvaged Vehicles section.
For bill of sale purposes:
- If you repair and rebuild a junk vehicle and want to sell it, you must provide the buyer with either a bill of sale with your dismantler's acquisition number or a junk receipt.
- A junk receipt is an ownership document. The CA DMV issues this document when you request “junk" status for the vehicle. It's comparable to a car title and notes that the vehicle is a junk vehicle.
- If you want to re-register a junk vehicle, you'll need:
- Either the junk receipt or the bill of sale. Make sure the dismantler included his or her acquisition number.
- Any other bills of sale that establish a chain of ownership from the person whose name is on the junk receipt or bill of sale to you.
Additional Car Buying Tips
- Completely fill in the title and give it to the buyer, whether or not you complete a bill of sale.
- A bill of sale is beneficial but not required; a properly completed title is required—period.
- Provide the odometer reading if the vehicle is under 10 years old.
- Obtain and provide the buyer with a smog certification if the vehicle is more than 4 model years old, unless you obtained one within the last 90 days.
- Download and complete the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (Form REG 138) or complete it online using the NRL System within 5 calendar days of the transaction.
- The Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability is required; a bill of sale is not enough to notify the DMV of the sale and release you of liability.
- Let the license plates go with the vehicle and new owner unless they're personalized or special interest plates.
Refer to our section on Selling Your Car for more information.
- Don't leave without the title. The title is the proof of ownership, not the bill of sale.
- Check that the title includes accurate vehicle information including the make, model, year, odometer reading, and vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Check the title's brand and make sure you know the type of vehicle you're purchasing. Look for words like “Junked," “Warranty Returned," and “Original Taxi."
- Make sure everyone who needs to sign the title does so.
- Multiple names separated by “OR" means either party can sign the title; the word “AND" or a forward slash (“/") mean both parties must sign the title.
- Report the ownership change to the DMV within 10 days from the purchase date.
- Pay your $15 transfer fee within 30 days of the purchase date. You'll pay additional fees and taxes when you title and register a used car. Refer to our pages on Title Transfers and Car Registration for details.
There's much more to buying, titling, and registering a car, of course! Visit our Guide to Buying a Used Car for more car buying tips.
Notifies the DMV that you have transferred/sold your vehicle to protect you until the buyer registers it in his name.
Grants power of attorney for someone to sell a vehicle on your behalf.
Bill of sale for private transactions. Serves as receipt and proof of purchase.
Combination form for odometer disclosure, bill of sale, and power of attorney. Not available online. Contact the DMV for a copy.