Bill of Sale Title Method

  • 3 min read

For a vehicle, you have a title and a bill of sale. The two things are different. You may only have a bill of sale and want to get a title. So how does that work? A bill of sale is only a record of a particular event, like one person saying, “I’m selling you this car.” It’s not a complete transfer of ownership because the bill of sale doesn’t say that the person who’s selling it actually owns the car. It doesn’t say if there’s a lien on the car, and there’s no verification on a bill of sale that the seller has the authority to sell the car. Maybe they do, but by itself, the bill of sale doesn’t disclose that because anybody can write a bill of sale. You can write on a piece of paper, “I, Joe Schmo, sell this car,” and then fill in the rest of the details. There are blank forms you can download that might look official, maybe even the DMV bill of sale when you fill it out.

But there’s no such thing as prior verification that the information is correct. The only thing that the DMV or government agency is going to look at that’s a valid ownership verification is the prior title, so when you buy a car, what you’re supposed to do is have the seller of that car write their name on the front of the title, flip it over, sign the back, and give it to you. That’s a guarantee for that title, and Carter is now yours if it’s only a bill of sale. Who knows if that seller is the owner, and who knows if there’s not a lien on it? Who knows if maybe it was another owner? So the bill of sale isn’t good enough, the DMV won’t accept it, and you shouldn’t either. Well, what if it was your car?

If somebody just had your car and your keys and just filled out a bill of sale, they could sell the car to somebody else if that was enough. You have your title document somewhere in the safe deposit box. Maybe in your file cabinet or somewhere in your house is what protects your ownership of that car. So if it were good enough just to have a bill of sale to flip a car, then you wouldn’t need titles because it would have no value. Are there ways to transfer a car and get a title with only a bill of sale? There are a few ways to do it that might have some other requirements.

You can read about it on some of our websites to find out more about how to get a title. If you only have a bill of sale and must construct the rest of the ownership proof using other means, maybe Vermont, maybe a bonded title, maybe an affidavit, you can read how to do that on our website at, but by itself, if you’re buying a car, make sure that if you’re accepting only a bill of sale that you know the risk and you know you’re going to do some work to get the title in your name.

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