Selling a Car in Washington

When you’re selling a vehicle in Washington, there are some requirements that you must meet. We’ve collected the appropriate information here so you can know what is necessary for a smooth vehicle sale in the state.

1. Title Information

You can only sell a vehicle in Washington if you have complete ownership of it. In other words, any “lien” (loan) on the vehicle must be paid off before you can sell the vehicle. In Washington, the lienholder maintains the title as long as the lien remains. If you have paid off the lien, the lienholder should submit both the title and a lien release to you. You can then submit the release and the title to the state in order to get a new title without the lien. You will not be able to sell the vehicle until you receive the new title.

You should also make certain that you have the actual title. If you cannot find the title, you’ll need to fill out an Affidavit of Loss from the Washington Department of Licensing. You will need the physical title so that you can transfer the title to the new buyer. Both buyer and seller must fill out specific segments of the title. Your signature and the buyer’s signature are also both necessary and must be notarized.

2. Bill of Sale Requirements

Washington does not require a typical Bill of Sale when you sell a vehicle. It does, however, require you to fill out a Vehicle Report of Sale, which is similar and must be completed within five days of selling the vehicle. The Vehicle Report of Sale includes the following information:

  • The new owner’s name
  • The full address of the new owner
  • The seller’s name
  • The full address of the seller
  • The date of the sale
  • The sale price
  • A full and detailed vehicle description
  • 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

Certain counties in Washington require vehicle emissions testing. Most vehicles in Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties will require testing every two years. Vehicles under five years old or over 25 years old are exempt from the testing, as are some hybrids and all fully-electric vehicles.

Testing must be done at specifically approved stations, and it is your responsibility to be certain that the emissions test certificate is current on your vehicle before you sell the vehicle.

4. License Plates

In Washington, when you sell a vehicle, the license plates stay with you rather than with the vehicle. You will need to take the plates off the vehicle before the sale is complete. You can legally transfer the plates to a new vehicle as long as the vehicle is in the same class as the previous one. If you do not transfer the plates, you should surrender them to a vehicle licensing office in order to protect yourself from liability and to avoid fines.

5. Odometer Disclosure Requirements

Washington requires you to formally disclose the vehicle odometer reading when you sell a vehicle that is 10 years old or newer. To fulfill this requirement, you can fill in the appropriate space on the title when you transfer it to the buyer. You can also fill out an official Odometer Disclosure form that can be picked up from any vehicle licensing office.

6. Other Information

If you have questions or want more details on anything connected to vehicle selling, check out the Washington Department of Licensing website.