Purchasing a Car in California from a Private Party?

Lemon Law Attorney Serving Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino Counties and Other Areas in California


The California Department of Motor Vehicles has developed in a report a series of steps you need to follow when you purchase a used car from a private party. Normally, these tasks would be taken care of by the car dealership, but in a private transaction you have to look after these details yourself in regards to California lemon law and certified pre-owned vehicles.

10 Days to Transfer Ownership
Within 10 days of the final sale, you have to file an array of paperwork with the DMV. One of the most important pieces of documentation you need is the title, also known as the pink slip. You and the car’s former owner have to sign the pink slip and have it notarized. If the car was financed, the owner of the loan must sign as well.

Once the signatures have been notarized, you need to pay a transfer fee (currently $15) and use tax (varies by county). You have 30 days to pay these fees to the DMV.

Depending on the age of the car, you may need to pay a smog transfer fee. Cars that are four or fewer years old are subject to a smog transfer fee (currently $8). If the car is older than four years, the seller must prove that the vehicle has passed the current smog certification period. Certain exceptions to this rule apply.

If the car is less than ten years old, you will also need to record the mileage on the odometer. Your title paperwork should have a place to record this information. If not, a special form must be used called the Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262). This form is obtained from the DMV and then signed by both you and the original owner of the vehicle.

Vehicles given as gifts, or transferred within families are subject to slightly different rules. Please contact the Law Offices of Howard D. Silver at 855-341-2611 if you have questions about the legal issues involved in selling or buying used cars in California.