How to Sell a Car in California? A Step-by-step Guide

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Best Websites to Sell a Car in California

Peddle

Get your free offer instantly via online form or call on (855) 925 4302

$0 fees + you don’t have to pay for towing – Peddle will take care of it

Get paid in check during the pick up for any car (damaged, junk, wrecked)

Wheelzy

Wheelzy logo

Quick car evaluation without the hassle – sell your car within 30 min

Choose a convenient date and time for free pick-up, as soon as next day

Get cash in hand the same day the Wheelzy agent picks up your car

eBay Motors

eBay Motors logo

7.4 million visitors a month looking for cars – 15k cars sold each month

$19 – $79 listings fee + 2.35% on the portion of the sale over $7,500

Payment terms and balance payoff are all set up when you list your vehicle

Where to Sell a Car in California? 3 Sites


Peddle

(No service fee)

Peddle offers one of the best ways to sell used cars in California. When you submit your car sale application through Peddle, they will either pick up or tow your car for free within 48 hours. And they will also hand you a check right before they leave with your car.

What’s best, Peddle purchases cars in any condition. So you don’t have to worry about them not accepting your car whether it’s a little bit damaged or complete junk.

peddle logo

Peddle Summary

  • Buys used, damaged or junk car nationwide
  • Get instant quote on (855) 925 4302
  • Free towing within 48 hours after offer
  • Receive payment upon car collection

CarBrain

(No service fee)

CarBrain also buys cars in any condition directly and offers free towing service.

Moreover, CarBrain handles paperwork for you and covers any costs related to title transfer if you sell your car in California.

carbrain logo

CarBrain Summary

  • Get an online offer within 2 minutes
  • Get cash for your car in under 48 hours
  • CarBrain buys cars in over 7 conditions
  • Up to 7 days to accept CarBrain’s offer

Craigslist

(No service fee)

Craigslist is a go-to online platform for many people seeking to buy used cars locally. You can place your car listing on Craigslist for free and there are no service fees after your car sells.

But the major disadvantage of Craigslist is that the platform doesn’t filter out its users. So there’s a risk of encountering fraudulent buyers or scammers. However, if you take precautions to protect your own privacy and safety, you should be fine.

Best Place to Sell Your Junk Car in California


Going from junkyard to junkyard is perhaps one of the most unwanted procedures for most people. And it’s no surprise that you want to avoid it. Luckily, you can!

What if I told you that you can submit your application to sell a junk car online and let the company tow it for you for free? 

I know, it sounds too good to be true, but Peddle is one of the largest nationwide companies that will purchase your junk car within 48 hours after you submit your application.

What’s more, since Peddle would repurpose your junk car, later on, they offer more money for your junk car. For example, Peddle recently purchased a 2001 Honda Accord in junk condition for $250 in under 24 hours.

What Documents Do I Need to Sell My Car Privately in California?


What are Required Documents for Selling Car Privately in California

You’ll need the following documents to sell your car in California:

  • California Certificate of Title (REG 227). Note that you can use your original title if you have it, so you don’t need a duplicate title form. But if the title is missing, you must use a REG 227 to complete the transfer of ownership.
  • Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138) form releases you from civil or criminal liability for any parking, abandonment, or operation related to your vehicle after the transfer date. It’s highly recommended that you keep a copy of REG 138 for your own records.
  • Signature(s) of seller(s) and lienholder (if any).
  • Buyer(s) signature.
  • Transfer fee (FFVR 34).

Additional Documents You Might Need to Sell a Car in California

Depending on the situation, you may also need some additional documents, such as:

  • Vehicle Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262). If the vehicle has been sold more than once with the same title, each seller is required to file a REG 262. Note that since this form contains security features, it’s not available online. To get the REG 262 form, you should call the DMV at 1-800-777-0133 and they will send the form via mail.
  • Statement to Record Ownership/Statement of Error or Erasure (REG 101) form. This form is required when a name or other information on the title is entered wrongly. The REG 101 form should be completed by the person whose name is mistaken or by the person who made the error.
  • Statement of Facts (REG 256) form is needed when the vehicle is obtained from a family member and is filled by the new owner (buyer).
  • Lien Satisfied/Title Holder Release (REG 166) form is used by the legal owner/lienholder of record instead of the Certificate of Title. This document releases interest in a vehicle and must be notarized in case you will submit an Application for Duplicate California Title.
  • Smog inspection certification isn’t applicable to all vehicles. For example, electric/hybrid cars, natural gas, gasoline, or diesel-powered vehicles, and cars that were made before 1975 are exempt from smog inspection.
  • Vehicle Emission System Statement (SMOG) (REG 139) form. Check out the nearest STAR smog check station here.
  • If your vehicle is less than 10 years old, you’ll also need to disclose the odometer reading.
  • In some cases, you may also need a Bill of Sale REG 135 or a Power of Attorney REG 260 form.

How Do You Sign Over a Car Title in California?


How to Sign Over a Car Title in California

When you’re selling your car in California, you’ll have to sign over a car title to transfer the ownership. This procedure is actually pretty quick – you just need to sign your vehicle title in 2 places on the front side of the title.

The first signature you should put is under the label “Signature of Registered Owner”. The second signature is required for the odometer statement. This field is located on the lower-left corner of your title and is labeled as “Transferor/Seller Signature”.

Title Transfer Fees In California


There’s a $15 fee to transfer a title in California, plus any use tax fees. Note that there’s a separate fee of $22 for the duplicate title and is added to the $15 title transfer fee.

Can I Sell A Car In California Without A Title?


It’s mandatory to provide a title in order to sell a vehicle in California, meaning you won’t be able to sell your car without it.

However, if you’ve lost the California car title, you can obtain a duplicate title from the California DMV – REG 227.

6-Step Guide to Sell Your Car in California


How to Sell Your Car in California

Selling your car in California is a complex procedure. To avoid any inconveniences like getting a ticket or being responsible for any crimes the new owner of your car may have committed, you have to make sure you’ve gone through all the necessary procedures.

Here are the exact steps you should take to sell your car in California properly and stay safe.

Step 1 – Review & Gather the California DMV Forms

The very first step to selling your car in California is to review and gather the vehicle transfer documentation. 

You’ve already seen what documents you’ll need at the beginning of this article. So make sure you have all the necessary DMV forms, plus any additional ones you might need.

Step 2 – Get a Smog Certification if Your Car isn’t Exempt

Selling most of the cars requires up-to-date smog certification from your local STAR smog check station

Note that smog certifications are valid for 90 days and you must sell your car within this timeframe.

Here’s the list of cars that don’t need smog certification when sold:

  • Electric cars
  • Hybrid cars
  • Cars that are less than 4 years old
  • Cars that run on diesel
  • Vehicles that run on natural gas
  • Cars made before 1975

Step 3 – The Buyer Inspects the Car

While some buyers will skip the inspection procedure, most of them may request a licensed technician to inspect your car before they purchase it. 

But you don’t have to worry about any expenses related to inspection because it’s typically a buyer’s responsibility to pay for it.

Pro tip: Make sure to keep all documentation from the inspection. Especially if there are any issues with the car that needs to be fixed that otherwise could arise a concern.

Step 4 – Be Prepared to Pay a Few Minor Fees 

The exact amount of fees depends on the type of vehicle you’re selling. However, buyers are responsible for paying most of the fees.

Let’s  take a look at the most common fees related to selling your car in California:

Fee Who pays for it?
Transfer fee $15 + tax Buyer
Use tax Varies from city to city Buyer
Duplicate title fee $22 You

Step 5 – Fill out All the Required Forms, Review & Sign Them with the Buyer

You’ve seen all the required forms at the beginning of this article. At this step, it’s time to print out the documents you need to properly complete a sale and review and sign them together with the buyer.

I would also recommend you review the California DMV’s vehicle owner transfer checklist and vehicle registration checklist not to miss any required forms.

Step 6 – Submit All Forms & Report the Transfer to California’s DMV

Once you have all the forms ready and reviewed with the buyer, you should submit them to your local California DMV office

Remember, you have 5 days to report the vehicle transfer.

Sell a Car in Califronia FAQ


Do I remove my license plate when I sell a car in california?

Not necessarily. In most cases, vehicles have sequentially issued standard license plates that remain with the vehicle when ownership is transferred. However, the plates belong to you, not to the vehicle if you have personalized plates.

Do I need to go to the DMV to sell my car?

Technically, no. Both you and the buyer can mail all the necessary paperwork. However, if the forms aren’t filled out correctly, or anything is missing, this can delay the vehicle transfer procedure. That’s why most sellers and buyers meet at their local DMV office to ensure that they fill out all the documentation properly.

Do I need to smog check my car before selling it in california?

This depends on the type of car you own. Electric/hybrid cars, cars that are less than 4 years old, or made before 1975, vehicles that run on natural gas and diesel are exempt from smog checks.

Does a bill of sale have to be notarized in california?

Yes. After you and a buyer sign the California Bill of Sale, the document must be witnessed and notarized. 

Is flipping cars illegal in california?

Since flippers buy vehicles in low amounts in order to sell for profit without registering them, there’s no record left of the transaction. And because of this, flipping cars in California is illegal. 
However, as long as you register a car in your name and sell up to 5 cars per year as a private party, you should be fine.