Using a Bill of Sale


Using a Bill of Sale to Buy a Classic Car

You NEED to get a bill of sale. Whether you’re the seller or buyer, don’t exchange money or property without one.

Simply put, a bill of sale is an agreement between the seller and buyer that details the sale. It can be simple, just noting the seller, buyer, and property to be exchanged, or it can be more complex. Some bill of sales also outline conditions of a sale, such as ensuring that parts of the car are a certain condition, or that it will be delivered on a particular date. It confirms the transfer of ownership of property and is a legally binding agreement.  Information often present on a bill of sale includes:

– Year, make and model of the vehicle, as well as other descriptive information
– The vehicle identification number (VIN)
– Odometer reading (mileage)
– Buyer contact and address information
– Seller contact and address information
– Date of the sale
– Agreed upon purchase price
– Signatures of both buyer and seller

This is only some of the information that can be included on a bill of sale. If the transaction includes any conditions, they should also be included. How many days the buyer has to complete an inspection, deposit details, where and how the title will be sent and any assurances made by the seller are all examples of additional information a bill of sale may include. It’s very important that the document include as many details about the transaction as possible.


You can download a generic bill of sale like the one available here or with the button below, or have an attorney draft one that will be specific to your transaction. Most states will have bill of sales available for download from the forms section of their Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Reading How to Buy a Car Online, you may have noted that there are a few methods for a buyer to protect themselves in a long-distance transaction. The bill of sale is one of the few legal means that will allow local police to get involved if a long distance transaction turns out to be fraudulent. You can use the document as proof of the agreements you and the seller made to each other. 

Often the seller will provide a bill of sale, especially if they’re a licensed dealer. It won’t hurt to show up prepared though and have a generic one ready in case the seller doesn’t have one.

A bill of sale protects the seller too. It may include lines that define the sale as “where is,” or “as is.” These important words (0r variations of these words) make it clear that the car is being sold in its present condition and that it is the buyer’s responsibility to arrange for pick up of the vehicle. Additionally, many bill of sales will include a statement that the seller gave the buyer a chance to inspect the vehicle, and that they are presently agreeing to buy it either knowing the results of that inspection, or are foregoing their right to the inspection and buying “as is.”

With a transaction that’s taking place entirely online, you can substitute a series of e-mails for a bill of sale. The e-mail will need to contain the same information as a printed bill of sale. Both seller and buyer will need to agree to the terms outlined within. It’s very important that all responses to the original e-mail be saved as the entire exchange of e-mails can serve as proof of the transaction.

Some states REQUIRE the use of a Bill of Sale to document a transfer of ownership. Below is a partial list. In most cases, the forms you’ll need to use are available for free from your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Contact your local DMV to be sure about the regulations and requirements in your area.

  • Alabama The bill of sale must be a separate document that is used in transferring the title of the vehicle. Forms may be available on a county-by-county basis and may need to be notarized.
  • Arkansas Click here for the required form.
  • Colorado The buyer must carry in the vehicle a bill of sale that identifies the vehicle by year, make, and VIN. It must show the time and date of the sale and be signed by both the buyer and the seller. Form DR2173 Motor Vehicle Bill of Sale can be purchased through Standard Register at 303-860-8000)
  • Connecticut For purposes of selling your vehicle privately, the seller of a motor vehicle may use Form H-31 Bill of Sale, or draft his/her own bill of sale as long as it contains the following information:
    • Vehicles Information such as make, year, model, vehicle identification number and an odometer reading.
    • Buyer information such as name and address of buyer and buyer’s signature.
    • Seller information such as name and address of seller and seller’s signature.
    • Selling price and date sold.
  • Maine A signed bill of sale must be presented when registering a vehicle with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and is used to calculate the excise tax at your local office. A dealer will provide one, but a private sale will require that one be drafted.
  • Nebraska The document can be downloaded here, with further instructions located here.
  • Rhode Island The seller must give the new owner a bill of sale. The document should include all the basic information about the car, such as year, make, model, VIN number, color; it must also include the purchase price. The seller needs to sign and furnish their address, as the new owner will have to supply that information on the registration application when they register the car.
  • South Dakota An electronic version can be found here.
  • Washington The buyer must present the Certificate of Ownership (Title) and this bill of sale to their local vehicle licensing office within 15 days of acquiring the vehicle, or be charged a late fee between $50 and $125.
  • Wyoming The necessity for a bill of sale varies by county.


A bill of sale, in combination with an inspection report from a verified professional inspector, provides the best protection a buyer can hope for in purchasing a car online. The peace-of-mind this one document creates is well worth the extra steps.

CLICK HERE to read more of How to Buy a Classic Car Online!


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