Here are some helpful tips for buying a car in California.

Documents You’ll Need

Certificate of Title

Complete the following on the reverse side of the title:

  • Your name and address.
  • Your signature.
  • Seller’s signature.
  • Odometer disclosure if the car is less than 10 years old.

Several factors determine the transfer fee. You can use the fee calculator on the California DMV website.

Odometer Statement

Complete the Conforming Odometer Statement on the back of the title. Automobiles older than 10 years are exempt.

If there’s no room on the title, you must complete the Reg 262 form.

Bill of Sale

California doesn’t require a bill of sale. It’s still a good idea to have one so that you and the buyer have a legal record.

Sellers on PrivateAuto will have a bill of sale you can sign directly from the app.

Smog Certification

The seller needs to provide a smog certificate that’s 90 days old or fewer.

  • Year model 1976 and later gas.
  • Year model 1998 and later diesel.

A smog certificate isn’t required for vehicles less than 4 year-models old.

Research the Title

Search the National Insurance Crimes Bureau website to verify the car:

  • Isn’t reported stolen.
  • Isn’t declared a total loss in an insurance claim.

Mechanical Inspection

You want to be sure you’re buying a roadworthy car. An inspection can reveal hidden mechanical problems.

A mechanic with the Master Automotive Technician ASE Certification is skilled at inspecting and repairing most cars and light trucks.

Vehicle History Report

PrivateAuto now partners with AutoCheck to get your auto history.