How To Sell An Out-Of-State Car In California: A Step-By-Step Guide

Selling a car that is currently registered in another state can seem daunting in California, which has stricter regulations than most other places. If you need a quick answer, here it is: You will need to get the car registered in California, obtain a smog check, and properly transfer ownership before the sale. While the process takes some effort, you can successfully sell your out-of-state car in California by following important steps.

In this comprehensive guide, we will outline everything you need to know to sell an out-of-state car in California. You’ll learn step-by-step instructions for registering the car, obtaining a smog certification, transferring ownership, and completing the sale smoothly. We will also cover how to have the car shipped from another state and important disclosures to make to buyers. By understanding the requirements and following the recommendations here, you can ensure your out-of-state car sale meets all California’s regulations.

Registering an Out-of-State Car in California

Title and registration process

When selling an out-of-state car in California, it is important to follow the proper title and registration process. The first step is to obtain the vehicle’s title and make sure it is clear of any liens.

If there is a lienholder, make sure to contact them to get the necessary documents to transfer the title. Once the title is clear, you can proceed with the registration process.

To register an out-of-state car in California, you will need to visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Make sure to bring the necessary documents, such as the out-of-state title, proof of insurance, and a completed Application for Title or Registration.

You may also need to provide a smog certificate, depending on the age of the vehicle.

The DMV will inspect the vehicle identification number (VIN) and odometer reading to verify the information on the title. They will also collect the necessary fees, such as registration fees and sales tax.

Once all the paperwork is completed and the fees are paid, you will receive the new California title and registration documents for your out-of-state car.

Emissions testing requirements

California has strict emissions testing requirements for vehicles. When registering an out-of-state car in California, you may need to have it undergo a smog check. This requirement applies to vehicles that are more than four years old.

The smog check ensures that the vehicle meets the state’s emissions standards.

If your out-of-state car is newer than four years old, it may be exempt from the smog check requirement. However, it is always a good idea to check with the local DMV office to confirm the specific requirements for your vehicle.

You can find more information about the smog check program and the requirements on the official website of the California DMV:

Remember, it is important to follow all the necessary steps and requirements when registering an out-of-state car in California. By doing so, you can ensure a smooth and legal transfer of ownership for your vehicle.

Transferring Ownership of an Out-of-State Car

When selling an out-of-state car in California, it is important to follow the proper steps to transfer ownership. This ensures a smooth and legal transaction. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

Obtain a Bill of Sale

The first step in transferring ownership of an out-of-state car is to obtain a bill of sale. This document serves as proof of the sale and includes important details such as the buyer and seller’s information, the vehicle identification number (VIN), the purchase price, and the date of sale.

It is crucial to have a properly completed bill of sale to protect both parties involved in the transaction. You can find templates online or consult with a legal professional to ensure you have a valid document.

Submit Ownership Paperwork

Once you have the bill of sale, the next step is to submit the ownership paperwork to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This paperwork includes the out-of-state title, the bill of sale, and any other required documents such as emission certifications or smog certificates.

It is important to carefully review the DMV’s website or contact them directly to ensure you have all the necessary paperwork and to understand any specific requirements for out-of-state transfers.

The DMV will process your paperwork and issue a new California title in the buyer’s name. The buyer will then be responsible for registering the vehicle and obtaining new license plates.

It is worth noting that California has specific requirements for out-of-state vehicles, so it is essential to familiarize yourself with the regulations to ensure a smooth transfer of ownership. The DMV’s website ( is a great resource for up-to-date information and forms related to out-of-state vehicle transfers in California.

Transporting or Shipping a Car from Out-of-State

If you are looking to sell an out-of-state car in California, one of the first things you need to consider is how you will transport or ship the car to its new location. There are a few different options available to you, depending on your specific needs and budget.

Option 1: Hire a Professional Auto Transport Company

One option is to hire a professional auto transport company to handle the transportation of your car. These companies specialize in safely and efficiently moving vehicles from one location to another. They have the necessary equipment and expertise to ensure that your car is transported securely.

When choosing a professional auto transport company, it is important to do your research and select a reputable company. Look for companies that are licensed and insured, and read customer reviews to get an idea of their track record.

You can find a list of licensed auto transporters on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.

Option 2: Drive the Car Yourself

If you prefer to have more control over the transportation process, you can choose to drive the car yourself. This option allows you to personally oversee the transportation and ensure that your car arrives safely.

However, driving the car yourself can be time-consuming and may require additional expenses such as fuel and accommodations. Additionally, if you are moving from a significant distance, it may not be feasible to drive the car all the way to California.

Option 3: Use a Car Shipping Service

Another option is to use a car shipping service. These services connect car owners with independent drivers who are willing to transport their vehicles. It is important to note that when using a car shipping service, the responsibility for the transportation lies with the driver, not the service itself.

When using a car shipping service, it is important to thoroughly vet the driver and ensure that they have the necessary insurance coverage. You can also consider using a service that offers tracking options, so you can monitor the progress of your car during transit.

Regardless of the option you choose, it is important to properly prepare your out-of-state car for transportation. This includes cleaning the car, removing personal belongings, and ensuring that it is in good working condition.

Taking these steps will help ensure a smooth and successful transportation process.

Important Disclosures to Make When Selling an Out-of-State Car

Disclose car’s origins

When selling an out-of-state car in California, it is crucial to disclose the origins of the vehicle. This means letting potential buyers know that the car was not originally purchased in California, but rather in another state.

This information is important because it can affect various aspects of the transaction, such as registration fees and taxes.

Pro Tip: Be transparent about the car’s origins from the beginning to avoid any misunderstandings or surprises later on in the selling process. This will help build trust with potential buyers and ensure a smoother transaction.

Provide smog certificate

Another important disclosure to make when selling an out-of-state car in California is providing a smog certificate. In California, vehicles must undergo a smog check to ensure they meet the state’s emissions standards. This is necessary for the registration process.

Pro Tip: Before selling your out-of-state car, make sure it passes the smog check. If it does not, you may need to make the necessary repairs or modifications to bring it up to California’s standards. Once the car passes the smog check, obtain the smog certificate, as this will be required when transferring ownership.

For more information about smog checks and requirements in California, you can visit the official website of the California DMV.

By disclosing the car’s origins and providing a smog certificate, you can ensure a smoother selling process when selling an out-of-state car in California. Remember to be transparent and proactive in providing all necessary information to potential buyers, as this will help you build trust and increase the chances of a successful sale.

Other Options for Selling an Out-of-State Car

Sell to a dealer

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of selling your out-of-state car on your own, you have the option of selling it to a dealer. Dealerships are typically experienced in handling out-of-state car sales and can make the process much easier for you.

They may even offer you a fair price for your vehicle, especially if it’s in good condition. However, keep in mind that selling to a dealer might not always get you the highest price for your car.

Sell in original state

If you prefer to sell your out-of-state car in its original state, you have a few options to consider. One option is to list your car for sale on online marketplaces such as Craigslist or eBay. These platforms allow you to reach a wide audience of potential buyers and give you the opportunity to negotiate the price directly with them.

Another option is to advertise your car locally in the area where the car is registered. This can be done through local classifieds, community bulletin boards, or even word-of-mouth.

It’s important to note that when selling an out-of-state car, you may need to comply with the legal requirements of both the state where the car is registered and the state where you plan to sell it. It’s recommended to research and familiarize yourself with the specific regulations and paperwork involved in the process.

For more information on selling an out-of-state car in California, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Motor Vehicles: They provide detailed guidelines and resources to help you navigate the process smoothly.


While selling an out-of-state car in California involves extra steps, it can be done successfully by first registering the car locally. Properly transferring ownership, providing the necessary disclosures, and meeting California’s strict requirements will make the sale smooth. With some effort to handle paperwork and transportation, you can sell your car from another state to a private party or dealer in California.

Completing the title transfer, smog check, and registration according to the state’s regulations is key. Following the guidance here will help ensure your out-of-state car sale meets all of California’s rules and protect you from any penalties or liability down the road.

Similar Posts