How to Sell a Car in California Step by Step: What Preparations Needed?

Every state has different rules, laws and regulations when it comes to selling your used vehicle. Before you sell your car, be sure you know the laws of that particular state. Selling your used vehicle in California is any easy process, but there are some specifications you should be aware of first.

Preparations for Selling Car in CA, USA

  • Fix any minor problems such as an oil change, spark plugs or points, or broken door handles or other fixtures.
  • Clean your car thoroughly and be sure to take out any personal items before listing your vehicle for sale. A clean car will sell a lot easier as it will tell the potential buyers that you have taken good care of your vehicle while you owned it.
  • Research the value. There are different resources for figuring out the value of your car. You can use Kelly Blue Book for example, or find similar cars on Craigslist and see what they are selling for.
  • Set your asking price at a little more than you are willing to accept. Most car buyers will barter and offer a lesser amount in cash.
    If you set your price a little higher, then this bartering process will put you closer in your price comfort zone.
  • Be sure to get your vehicle smogged as that is a requirement in California. California requires the owner to be responsible for smogging their vehicles before selling.


  • Take pictures of your vehicle from all angles, as well as of the interior.
  • Advertising on Craigslist is one of the most popular ways of selling your used car. You can add pictures and advertise for free. It is always a good idea to meet any prospective buyers in a public place. Do not accept checks; accept only cash and be sure to have the proper paperwork with you at the time of the meeting.
  • Depending upon the year and value of your car, you can advertise in newspapers and on local television stations that offer this feature. If your car is older and you will not be selling it for a lot of money, this option probably isn’t for you as it is not free and may not be cost effective.

Bill of Sale

  • Before you sell your vehicle, you will want to make sure you have a bill of sale.
  • You can download a generic, but legal, bill of sale from the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) website.
  • You can write your own bill of sale to have it tailored to your needs and specifications. For example, even though California requires the seller to be responsible for passing smog, you can specify in the bill of sale that the buyer has agreed to be responsible. Be sure to put into the terms of the agreement that this is an “as is” sale, meaning the seller is not responsible for any repairs or warranties.
  • Be sure to date the bill of sale and both you and the buyer must sign it.

Release of Liability

  • Immediately after the sale of your vehicle, you will want to submit a Release of Liability.
  • A Release of Liability releases you from any legal actions from the buyer; such as if they get a parking ticket or in an accident before they have put the vehicle into their own name.
  • You can go to the local DMV office and get a Release of Liability form or you can actually file it online. If you file it online, be sure to print it for your records.

One thought on “How to Sell a Car in California Step by Step: What Preparations Needed?

  1. Kevin Reply

    I live in Sunnyvale, CA. Looks like this article gives step by step information if you are looking to sell your car.

    But I would say that each case is different, mostly if you put it in online classified like craiglist, you will find the buyer. I did sell my car using craiglist.

    Some more online refenreces I wanted to share are, and

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