How to Sell Your Car in California

Have you ever thought about selling your car to a dealership? It sounds like an easy way to make money, but the whole process can be a little overwhelming. In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to sell your car in California.

How much time you put into preparing your vehicle to sell is contingent upon the type of vehicle you own as well as how you plan to sell it. The option of trading or selling it with a dealer might be less trouble as compared to selling privately however, it could also cost slightly (or more) less expensive. You don’t want to waste too much time or cash on prep work if the car isn’t worth much, but following some simple steps will help you get ready to sell your car in California.

sell your car in California

Sell Your Car in California

Pack your car documents

Paperwork sorted out is a good idea when selling a car in California. It can be difficult to sell a car in California without all the required documentation. Ensure that your documents are ready for the bureaucratic portion of selling a car. Having that information prepared beforehand could save you from blowing your sale.

Get your car cleaned

Make sure your vehicle is in good condition, and get your car looking its best before you try to sell it and show potential buyers that it runs well. Clean your car thoroughly inside and out, get a detailed vacuum, wash, and wax at a car wash and deodorize before you’re done. Your car will sell faster and for more!

Get a car inspection before selling your car

Before selling your car, you might want to consider having a certified inspection done. A certificated inspection report could be a huge help in building trust with prospective buyers, and eventually improve the offer that the buyer is willing to make. Make a budget and complete any recommended maintenance if it makes sense for your vehicle. Make a budget and complete any recommended maintenance if required before putting it up for sale.

Find out what documents you need to sell your car in California.

California has its own set of requirements for buying and selling cars, as do all other states. You’ll need to:

Apply for a DMV Transfer Forms Online

If you want to sell your car in California, applying for a DMV transfer is the best way to go. You can do it online and save yourself a lot of time. This form is available online and contains a lot of information. The seller must complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) for the change of ownership.

This releases you from the responsibility of any traffic or parking violations, as well as any criminal or civil actions that are that may arise from the vehicle after the date of sale. The transfer form is valid for 180 days from the date you sign it.

You’ll need the following information to fill out this form:

  • New owner’s name and address
  • License plate number
  • Vehicle identification number

The great thing is you can complete your NRL online. After you have completed the form, you can print one to keep for your records. The DMV gives you five days after the purchase date to complete the transfer. When your sale is finished fill in the title transfer form with the buyer. Remove your license plate. Then, fill in the online NRL immediately.

Get Your Car Smog Certification

A smog certification is a permit given to vehicles that can be sold in California. If you have a car that requires smog certification, you need it before trying to sell your car. The process for getting the certificate varies depending on the age of the vehicle, but expect to pay around $150 for one.

In the majority of cases, whenever a car is sold and it is required by the California DMV requires a smog certificate from an authorized test center. Smog testing facilities are available all over the state and the certificates last up to 90 days. The exceptions to the smog test required are:

Vehicles that were manufactured before 1975
Natural gas-powered vehicles
Diesel-run cars over 14,000 pounds
Diesel-run cars made before 1998
Electric-powered vehicles
Autos with less than 8 years or older
Formularies required for specific circumstances

For the vast majority of car sales, it is an NRL, and smog certificates are sufficient. However, certain situations require additional documents. If any of the following scenarios apply to you, you must fill out the forms that are required:

Commercial vehicles: Form REG-4008
Family member transfers: Form REG-256
Error on your car title: Form REG-101
Cars with lienholders: Form REG-166
Missing license plate or sticker: Form REG-156
Missing title: Form REG-227

Submit Transfer Forms

The transfer form and title are two of these documents that must be submitted to the DMV within 10 days of the sale.

Complete a California Certificate of Title

To sell your car in California, you will need to complete a certificate of title. This certificate of title is provided by the state and provides proof that you own the vehicle.

Your Car odometer reading

California law requires that all vehicles have an odometer reading. If you are trying to sell your vehicle, make sure you know what your total mileage is to calculate the amount of money required for the title transfer.

The number of miles that are on a vehicle can impact the value of its money, therefore the law requires you to note the odometer’s number on the registration. Falsifying, misreporting, or tampering with the odometer is a crime and potential harm, so be sure to have the buyer confirm the mileage when you fill out your title. The California DMV requires odometer readings to be recorded on the day of the sale. It is not something you can do beforehand.

Warranties of your Car

You must have a valid manufacturer’s warranty for your car. This is important because it will protect you in case something goes wrong.

Car Service Records

You need to have a service record to prove that the car has been properly serviced, it should be legal in other states as well.

How to Get a Buyer for Your Car

After you’ve got all the paperwork completed and your car is in good condition, you’re ready to put it up for sale. Check out a buyer’s checklist to predict a buyer’s requirements and then use that when you write your advertisement. Classified ads remain an effective method of advertising, but alternatives are:

Online Car Forums
Social Media Marketplaces
Online Auto Dealerships

Take Some Picture

Buyers rely on pictures to decide if they’d like to take a trip for an experience. You can increase interest by taking as many bright images as is permitted by the advertiser. Photograph from every angle both inside and outside Also, don’t forget to mention the engine. Make sure to highlight the distinctive qualities and any flaws also. Highlighting any flaws can build trust with buyers.

Create a listing for your car

When you make your car’s listing, make sure to provide as much detail as you can. Include details on the vehicle’s engine, and transmission, as well as any modifications or options to the vehicle. Also, note the year, make, model, mileage, and the vehicle’s identification number. Inform us of any problems or accidents to ensure potential buyers are aware of what to expect when they go to test drive.


When most people think about selling their car, they usually don’t give much thought to following the laws in California. However, there is a legal process involved in selling your car in California that you need to follow. If you are thinking about selling your vehicle, we hope this article will help you out.

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