Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

What level of protection do I need in the sale of my used vehicle

I am curious as I try to sell vehicle what is the proper way to ensure a buy does not try to hold me liable for operational issues. Do I need them to sign a written disclaimer? My 164K mile '98 Blazer which has many minor issues but is otherwise mechanically well maintained and I know its full maintenance history from close family ownership. It had a new transmission installed at 75K miles, new AC at 100K and a new fuel pump at 140K miles. The Blazer an alignment issue, (Changes lanes left to right on its own within a 100 yards if the steering is left un-touched. an ABS sensor issue that causes the brakes to rattle slightly when pressed, (On occasion but not all the time) the fan for the AC does not work, front speakers only. Interior is black and is otherwise in a normal state of wear with no rips or holes in the upholstery. The rear passenger window is not controllable via the driver window panel. The tires are suffering from the alignment issue.

No, a buyer cannot hold you liable for problems with a used car after you sell it. Just treat the buyer as you would like to be treated, with full disclosure of known issues. You can also write into the bill of sale that you are selling the vehicle “as is” if it makes you feel better. Here are some other tips:

The only way a buyer can go back at you is if you don’t fully disclose any major problems that you know of.

If you tell the buyer that the vehicle runs GREAT…and never had an issue…then he’s having issues with the transmission slipping. You may not have known about it. HOWEVER…If you took it to a shop to have it serviced…but it was too expensive so you decided to dump it without telling the buyer…then there can be a problem.

I’ll add this that KBB did not cover.

About a year ago I had aconversation about this with a police officer and friend. This is what I was told is the latest scam…so to speak.
They come and purchaase your vehicle and pay you a fair price in cash and you walk away thinking that now the vehicle is out of your hair.
What you don’t know is that they are only buying your car for parts. They strip the car to repair one that they already own. Maybe they need a engine, 2 fenders a hood, bumper and windshield.
They also remove anything else that they can to store or sell on E-bay.

After they strip everything off the car they push it out on the street. The car accumulates 10 days worth of fines and the city finally sends a tow truck. The city takes another 10 days to mail you a notice that they have had your car towed.

You ignore all this, because you sold the vehicle a month ago. You get another notice and finally call the city to tell then, “you no longer own the vehicle”. THe city says “Sorry you are the last registered owner, you are responsible”. Prove that it is someone elses car!!!
Now you owe ;
$280 in parking tickets
$150 towing bill
$420 in storage fees to the towing company

And it will cost you another $200 to get it towed to a junk yard
That’s $1050 in bills not including your consult with your lawyer. So much for your profit!!!

This officer sugested on documenting everything.
Document a number for you to call when they want to look at the car the first time. You can always say "If I need to make the time a little later, what’s your number.
When they show up, record any plate number on the car they came in.
The best is to make, before they show up, a reciept that you can fill out and a copy for you.
On these include their name and DL # , this way you can ask to see their drivers license and record the info on your reciept too.

Obviously this is not a $10,000 car. They could get those parts for $2000 at a slavage yard.
But with an older vehicle it is a problem. Like a 98 blazer!!!


A private seller is not held to the same standards as a car dealer, so as long as the OP is not selling vehicles frequently enough to be considered as a dealer, then he shouldn’t have very much to worry about.

However, because many people are very hard-headed (or just plain…stupid), the bill of sale should definitely contain the words, “Buyer acknowledges that this vehicle is being sold AS-IS, and is not covered by any warranties, either expressed or implied”.

Then–of course–make sure that the buyer signs the bill of sale.
Make a copy for the buyer, and keep the original in a safe place.

Thanks all!

MS Word has a handy motor vehicle bill of sale template. I’m attaching the Word version and the PDF version. I used it when I sold my motorcycle privately.


Do you have a link to that “scam” ever having happened?

I’m asking because the “dollars and cents” make NO sense. I get the “buy a beater and strip it for parts”; probably makes a lot of financial sense in a lot of cases.

What I DON’T get is the “leave the discarded carcass on the street” bit. The scrap metal value of any used vehicle is around $0.12/lb at any scrap yard; that’s near $400 for a typical vehicle. WHY would the “scam artists” in the example FORGO 400 bucks, just to inconvenience the prior owners?

@Yosemite, the kbb article did cover that possibility here:

“Most states recommend that buyers and sellers complete a “bill of sale” along with a “release of liability” form to provide proof of the transfer and to protect the seller from any future tickets, violations or other problems with the vehicle., a clearinghouse of all state DMVs, provides a sample Bill of Sale as well as Release of Liability information.”

“Send in the signed “release of liability” to your state DMV. This is important to ensure that the seller is not held responsible for anything that happens to the vehicle after the sale.”

Just write “As Is-Where Is” on the receipt.

Three times now I have had to go down and force the transfer of the title after the buyer did not register it. Because one had parking fines, I had to produce sales proof and sign an affidavit, then go to the DMV. Cost me a day. The other two times I could just force the transfer. One was to a cousin of a girl that worked for me. I was doing her a favor and giving her the car for $50. So now, we both go right down to the DMV and transfer it, period.

Then you have to worry about counterfeit cashiers checks and even counterfeit $100 bills. By the time you find out they aren’t any good, both car and buyer are long gone. I have to say that selling a car is not what it used to be and I’d just prefer to deal with a dealer whenever possible. Same thing buying from a private seller. Every day someone is coming up with a new scam.

Most states, perhaps all, have laws specifically stating that used car sales are “as is” unless otherwise specified in writing. You need tell the buyer absolutely nothing. Just write “as-is” on the receipt and you’re doubly-covered.

As for post-sale liability, many states require the seller to file a “release of liability” form that notifies the DMV that the vehicle has been transferred and the previous owner is no longer liable even if the new owner does not register the vehicle.

In states where a “release of liability” form is not required, it is still legally advisable to draw one up for the sale for the reasons @Yosemite and @Bing mentioned. Apparently @Yosemite and @Bing you live in states where a “release of liability” is not required or you wouldn’t have had those problems.

My bill of sale always includes a section that details the time and date the vehicle changed ownership. For example:

Sold to Bill E Bob (DL #) one 2000 Chevrolet Trailblazer VIN XYZ123 with odometer reading of a gazillion miles on 1/1/2014 for the sum of $1 billion dollars. Vehicle is being sold as-is with no warranties expressed or implied. Ownership transfer occurred on 1/1/2014 at 3:15 pm.

Signed by both parties, each gets a copy.

When I sold my motorcycle, the guy didn’t have a license plate to use for the ride home, so I gave him three days to return the plate. When he didn’t return it, I threatened to report the plate stolen and he brought it to me. The bill of sale template I attached earlier gives you the option of requiring title transfer within a certain number of days.

You’re nicer than me I probably would have just reported it stolen.

Everyone gave correct and valuable advice to OP so I don’t have to. The last vehicle I sold was different than any other. For the first time I could not locate the title. Being a fair person I heavily discounted the agreed upon price. I downloaded the DMV Bill of sale which included the release of liability. I was pleasantly surprised that a government agency could do something so incredibly right!

Bing “Every day someone is coming up with a new scam.” I’m afraid it’s a sign of the times. I remember when someone’s word and a handshake completed an honest deal. Now anyone falling for a scam is considered ignorant/stupid and the scam is considered socially acceptable. Heaven help us! I just had an idea for a new topic in general discussion. Have you ever been scammed by a mechanic, auto repair shop or dealership? Wait! Scratch dealership. That could overwhelm the forum!

Yosemite’s story is why I will not release a car I sell to someone before we BOTH go down the the registrar and I see the title properly tranferred IN PERSON and the paperwork properly filed. They don’t get the keys until I see it happen. Problem solved. They balk, fine, they don’t get the car.

If you lose the title, you can just go down and apply for a duplicate. Used to be about $10. Happened to me once and have no idea where it went to.

When you sell a car I think the DMV here in Calif recommends or requires the seller to submit a form to them w/the details of the sale, who purchased it, etc, and that is a way to document you no longer own the car, so if the buyer doesn’t complete the registration and dumps it on the street you won’t be responsible for the tickets. Good idea to ask your local DMV about this prior to completing the transaction, since it seems to be a way to scam car sellers.

It must be possible to buy and sell cars on the used market without worries. You just have to follow the correct procedure is all. My uncle used to buy or sell a used car almost every month. I’m not sure how he found the buyers or sellers, but somehow he’d find someone who really wanted to sell their car, so they’d sell it to him for a discount, then he’d find someone who really wanted to buy that car, so he’d sell it to them for a premium. Everything was done in cash or a cashiers check from major bank. It was sort of a part time business/hobby for him. He bought and sold jewelry too, if it was made from gold or silver, and made a profit from that too. Some people just seem to have this talent of being able to buy low and sell high. My uncle was sort of a jack of all (small) trades I guess.