Selling a Car in Rhode Island

When you’re selling a vehicle in Rhode Island, there are some requirements that you need to meet. We’ve collected the appropriate information here regarding these requirements so you can make certain your vehicle sale in the state goes smoothly.

1. Title Information

In Rhode Island, you can only sell a vehicle if you have total ownership of it. In other words, any “lien” (loan) on the vehicle must be paid off before you can sell the vehicle. If you have paid off a lien, double-check your title to make certain that the lien has been released. If not, have the lienholder submit a lien release to the state. You will not be able to sell the vehicle until the lien release has been accepted by the state.

You should also make certain that you have the actual title. If you cannot find the title, you’ll need to request a replacement title from the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You will need the physical title so that you can fill out the necessary information for the buyer as proof of the transfer of the vehicle. Both your signature and the buyer’s signature will be necessary and must be notarized.

2. Bill of Sale Requirements

Rhode Island requires a Bill of Sale for any vehicle sale. Make sure the Bill of Sale includes the following:

  • The new owner’s name
  • The full address of the new owner, which cannot be a P.O. box
  • The seller’s name
  • The full address of the seller, which cannot be a P.O. box
  • The date of the sale
  • The sale price
  • A full and detailed vehicle description, including the vehicle’s make, model, year, series number (if applicable) and body type (2-door, 4-door, sedan, etc.), as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • The vehicle odometer reading at the time of sale
  • The signature of the seller
  • The signature of the buyer

3. Inspections

Rhode Island has a system that includes both a required safety inspection and emissions test for all vehicles each year. If you are selling a vehicle, it will only be exempt from these requirements for a specified length of time — you are required to have the vehicle inspected before it reaches two years old or 24,000 miles, and the inspection must be current before you sell the vehicle. Electric vehicles are exempt from the emissions test but not the safety inspection. Vehicles that are over 25 years old will be tested but will not be penalized if they fail the emissions test. All other vehicles must pass both the safety inspection and emissions test each year.

If you sell a previously owned vehicle, you are required to make certain that the vehicle has a valid Rhode Island inspection sticker. If it does not, you have only five days from the purchase to get the inspection performed. Vehicles manufactured in 1997 and later are tested at official Inspection Stations, while older vehicles are inspected at special Diesel Opacity Stations.

4. License Plates

In Rhode Island, when you sell a vehicle, its license plates stay with you rather than remain with the vehicle. Transferring the plates is entirely legal within the state as long as the new vehicle is registered in the same name as the plates. You have only 48 hours to register the transfer, however, using a special state form. If you are not going to transfer the plates to a new vehicle, make sure you return them to a Division of Motor Vehicles office before you cancel your insurance or you could face unintended fines or liability for the vehicle after you’ve sold it.

5. Odometer Disclosure Requirements

Rhode Island requires you to formally disclose the vehicle odometer reading when you sell a vehicle that is 10 years old or newer. Filling out the odometer section on the title fulfills this requirement.

6. Other Information

If you have questions or want more details regarding vehicle selling, check out the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles website.