Reporting the Sale or Purchase of a Car
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
This answers questions about what you can do to protect yourself from being held responsible for the actions of another person after you have sold, transferred or purchased a car.
- What if I still have questions after reading this?
- Section 1: I have sold or transferred my car.
- What do I do next?
- Can I submit a Report of Sale after five business days?
- How do I report the sale or transfer?
- Is there a charge for filing a Report of Sale?
- What do I put in the Report of Sale?
- I gave the car away, or traded it with no money exchanged. Do I need to file a Report of Sale?
- The court awarded the car to someone else in a court order. Do I need to file a Report of Sale?
- I sold the car to a wrecking yard or sold it for parts. Should I file a Report of Sale?
- I sold my vehicle. The buyer is making payments. When should I file a Report of Sale?
- The buyer is still paying on the car. Am I responsible for parking tickets or towing charges during this time?
- What if I get charges for towing or parking tickets that are not mine?
- Where can I get a Vehicle/Vessel Disclosure Request form?
- What if the person buying my car abandons it?
- Section 2: I bought a car or received one as a gift.
This explains how to protect yourself after you have sold, bought, or transferred your car.
Call the Department of Licensing at 360-902-3770, visit their Department’s web site (www.dol.wa.gov), or contact your local auto licensing office.
- You must give away your ownership of the car by signing the title (vehicle certificate of ownership) and giving it to the new owner. If your car is less than ten years old, you must also fill out the odometer disclosure statement on the back of the title.
- Do not give up your interest in the car and deliver the title to the new owner if they are making payments. See “I have sold my car. The buyer is making payments. When should I file a Report of Sale,” below.
Give the Department of Licensing a written Report of Sale WITHIN FIVE DAYS. RCW 46.12.650 (2). Do not count Saturdays, Sundays, or state and federal holidays. If you do not file this report on time, you may still have criminal or civil responsibility for the operation of the car despite the sale. RCW 46.12.655.
Make sure the Department of Licensing has your current address. Otherwise, you may not get notices from a court or a towing company. You may not learn someone is holding you responsible for the actions of others who now have your car. You may lose the chance to fix a mistake.
Yes, but the Department might treat a late filing as improperly filed. Filing on time protects you from parking tickets, towing charges, and any accidents that happen after you sell/transfer your car.
Take the Report of Sale to your local auto licensing office. (Find it online at https://fortress.wa.gov/dol/dolprod/vehoffices/.) You can tear the report of sale form off from the car’s “certificate of ownership” (title). You can also get a form at any auto licensing office, or report the sale online at https://fortress.wa.gov/dol/extdriveses/NoLogon/_/.
If you submit your Report of Sale in-person, you get a receipt you need to show a court or towing company that you properly reported the sale/transfer. If you file your Report of Sale online, save or print out the receipt.
Do not mail your Report of Sale to the Department of Licensing in Olympia. You will not get a receipt. You take your chances with the postal service.
Effective July 1, 2017, it costs $8.75. This amount may change before we have a chance to update this resource.
your name and address
the date you sold/transferred your car
the buyer’s/transferee’s name
the sale price, or list it as a gift or trade
a description of your car, including its vehicle identification number (VIN) and license plate number
If you cannot provide this info, the Department may consider your Report of Sale improperly filed.
Yes. Any time you give your car away, donate it, trade it in to a car dealer, or trade it to a private party, you should file a Report of Sale.
Check the “gift/trade” box on the report of sale form if you are reporting online. Put “gift” or “trade” in the box marked “purchase price” on the Report of Sale form if reporting in person.
Yes. Report the transfer as a gift or trade. See above.
You must still file it WITHIN FIVE DAYS from the date of sale.
You and the buyer should go to your local auto licensing office together. Take the title (certificate of ownership) with you.
First: file your Report of Sale.
Second: your buyer must apply to be the registered owner.
Third: you and the buyer should apply for a new title saying the buyer is the registered owner and you are the legal owner.
The Department will issue and send you a new title. When the buyer finishes making payments, take that title to your local auto licensing office. Ask them to remove your name as the legal owner.
The buyer is still paying on the car. Am I responsible for parking tickets or towing charges during this time?
Not if you properly reported the sale.
Tickets - If your buyer became the car’s registered owner at the same time you reported its sale, there is little chance that you will mistakenly get a ticket.
Towing - You and your buyer will both get a notice from a towing company if they tow the car. RCW 46.55.110. You get a notice only because you are the legal owner. This gives you the chance to pay the towing company to get the car back if your buyer will not pay.
RCW 46.55.120. (You might want to. The car is your security for the buyer’s payments.)
If you do not want to pay to get the car back, you will not be responsible for any extra charges if the towing company sells the car but that is not enough to cover the towing charges. RCW 46.55.140.
Show your Report of Sale receipt to the towing company or the court that issued the ticket. If you do not have a receipt, you can get a copy of your Report of Sale from the Department of Licensing with a Vehicle/Vessel Disclosure Request.
Call the Department of Licensing at 360-902-3770 (Option 3, then Option 2). Ask them to mail you the form.
At SOME local auto licensing offices. (Local auto licensing offices do NOT process the requests.)
Mail the completed form to the address listed on it. There is no charge unless you request six or more documents. The Department of Licensing has five working days to respond.
If your car has been abandoned and towed away after you sold/transferred it, you will not be guilty of “littering – abandoned vehicle” OR responsible for costs incurred in removing, storing, and disposing of it, if you have properly filed a Report of Sale or Transfer. RCW 46.55.105 (4); RCW 46.63.140.
After buying or getting a vehicle as a gift, you have 15 days to do this. If you do not, these are the penalties:
- $50 on the 16th day.
- $2/day after the 16th day, up to $125.
If you buy from a Washington state dealer, they will take care of the transfer. If you buy from a private owner or an out-of-state dealer, you may need to do it.
Contact a vehicle licensing office.
The car is less than ten years old: You must fill out the Odometer Disclosure section on the Title. Most titles have an Odometer Disclosure section.
The car is more than ten years old: you do not have to report the Odometer miles.
- Visit a vehicle licensing office.
- Call 360.902.3770. They will mail it to you within two business days.
- Email CustomerCare@dol.wa.gov to request the Odometer Disclosure form. Give your name and mailing address. They will mail it to you within two business days.
Vehicle Title Application - Sign in front of one of these:
Licensing agent at an office.
The current vehicle title
You might also have to submit:
Emissions testing report
Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest
Odometer Disclosure Statement
You can hand deliver or mail your forms and payment to a vehicle licensing office. It takes eight to ten weeks this way. If you need it faster, hand-deliver or mail everything to a Quick Title office. This costs $50, plus title fees.
*Quick titles are not available for vehicles reported as stolen, insurance or wrecker-destroyed vehicles, or vehicles with "WA Rebuilt" on the title.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. This information is current as of January 2018.
© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)