How To Sell A Car In Washington

Dustin Hawley | Mar 05, 2021

No matter how you go about the process, selling your vehicle can be a stressful experience. While you can always go the most direct route and sell or trade your car in at a dealership, they will pay less-than-optimal rates in exchange for a measure of convenience.

how to sell a car in Washington

If you sell to a private buyer, you’ll likely be able to garner a higher price for your car. But this does not come without its drawbacks, as you’ll also be responsible for handling all the required paperwork to complete the sale.

Selling a car in the state of Washington is relatively simple. Here’s a quick guide on how to go about the process.

Make Sure You Have A Clean Title

If you are selling your car in Washington, you will need a clean title and a bill of sale. A clean title means it must be legible and intact, with no rips or tears, and you must not have a lien on the vehicle.

If you still owe money on your car loan, that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. You can still sell to a car dealership. But if you would like to sell to a private buyer, you’ll first need to pay off the remaining balance of the loan. Once you have paid off the loan, it will take a few weeks to get your replacement title, so make sure to handle any payments well in advance. 

If your title needs to be replaced because it was lost or damaged, you’ll need to file an Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest, Form TD-420-040. It can take up to ten weeks to process, so be sure to allow plenty of time to get your title replacement.

Alternatively, you can pay an extra fee and apply for an expedited title. It will cost you $85.50, in addition to the $35.50 fee charged for the standard replacement. 

Place An Ad

Once you have confirmed you have a clean title, you can then advertise your car with confidence. Online marketplaces are an excellent resource for listing your vehicle, although local classifieds and simple “For Sale” signs can also net you some surprisingly good results.

When you create your listing, try to provide as many details as possible. In addition to the make, model, year, and mileage, you should also let potential buyers know about any vehicle damage. Inform them of any aftermarket modifications that could add to the car’s value and outline any issues or repairs that need to be done (if applicable).

Make sure to include some pictures with your listing. Try to use multiple images and cover all angles of your car, highlighting any features you’ve mentioned in your ad, good or bad.

Finally, make sure you list your contact information. It’s best practice to include both your email address and phone number. It would be frustrating to place an ad, only to realize a week later that no one is calling because you forgot to list your contact info, and no one can get a hold of you. Take the time to review your listing and ensure you have provided potential buyers with a way to get in touch.

Have The Vehicle Inspected

While the state of Washington does not require a safety inspection for vehicle sales, many potential buyers will likely prefer to have one performed before they decide to buy your car. They will probably want the service to be performed by a mechanic or auto shop of their choosing. Therefore, the cost of the service should fall on the buyer. 

Additionally, selling a car in good faith often means including a vehicle history report. These are cheap to obtain and provide basic information such as your car’s accident history, previous sales, and other information regarding the vehicle that a potential buyer will want to be privy to.

Complete The Title And Bill Of Sale

When you and the buyer have agreed on a price, all that’s left to do is exchange money and fill out the paperwork. 

As the seller, you need to sign and date the title and enter the odometer reading. Have the buyer sign and date as well. Keep in mind; this is a legal document, so make sure both parties use your legal names. List your name in the same way it appears on your driver’s license or identification card.

In addition to the title, you’ll also need your bill of sale. For sellers in search of this document, it can be downloaded here. 

The buyer will not be able to register the car unless a bill of sale has been completed in full and signed by both parties. It’s also a good idea to retain a copy for your own records, whether for tax purposes or other documentation. 

Finally, remove your plates from the vehicle. These belong to you, not the new owner. If you buy a new car, the plates can simply be registered to that vehicle. This way, you won’t have to wait for new tags.

Report The Sale To The State

The last step for the seller is to file a report of sale with the state of Washington. This notifies the state that the vehicle no longer belongs to you, so if the car is involved in an accident or a crime, your name will no longer be associated with it. By law, sellers must file their report within five business days of vehicle sale.

A report of sale can be filled out either via paper form or online and carries an associated $13.25 administrative fee. To complete the form, you’ll need the license plate number, VIN, the buyer’s name and address, the sale price, and the date of the sale.

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