An estimated 3.5 million cars are registered in the city of Chicago. When we compare that number to the city's population of 2.8 million, we find there are nearly 26% more cars than people! So why does selling a car in the Windy City seem so difficult?

Well, for starters, a lot of sellers don't take advantage of all the advertisement opportunities a large city like this has to offer. Non-natives may have an especially hard time navigating the sales process since Illinois does things a little differently than other states.

We'll discuss everything you'll need to handle the DMV and how to advertise with a purpose in a big city like Chicago. Grab a pen and paper-- you're going to want to write these down.

What Does Chicago Require You to Do?

  • Have a clean, valid title with the seller's name as the legal owner
  • Have a current emissions inspection report on your vehicle's record
  • Create a bill of sale*
  • Submit an Illinois Notice of Sale form
  • Make sure the buyer has a current driver's license and active insurance coverage.
  • Take off the tag and either turn it in or transfer it to another vehicle you own

How Can I Best Sell My Car in Chicago?

The great thing about selling your car in metropolitan areas like Chicago is there's a huge market for used vehicles. Advertisement methods that aren't very effective in less populated areas, like newspaper ads, social media posts, and local craigslist listings can be beneficial for drawing in buyers in the Windy City.

Chicago has an unusually high number of cash-for-cars companies, something worth looking into if you can't find a serious buyer and need money now. Often these companies will even pick your car up and haul it away free of charge.

Don't expect to get the kelly blue book value from these guys, though. Most of these companies won't offer more than $15,000 (and that's if you're lucky.) The good thing about cash-for-cars companies is they accept any car, in any condition--this can be particularly useful if you have a junker (read: eyesore) just rusting away in your backyard.

Sellers of more expensive cars should probably steer clear of cash-for-clunkers companies and opt for a car-buying website instead. Carvana, in particular, is an excellent low-effort way to sell your car in the Chicago metropolis, since they recently unveiled their newest car vending machine, conveniently located in Oakbrook.

You can trade your auto in for a newer model at the vending machine, or if you'd rather have the money, you can submit a request for an associate to pick up your car from your driveway. The associate will either take your vehicle to their facility or appraise it on the spot, and if the price is right, they'll cut you a check within a few business days.

Steps to Sell My Car in Chicago

  • Make sure your smog-inspection report is still current. Illinois was one of the first states to mandate emissions testing, and they take it seriously. Cars who have failed or missed an air-quality test can't be registered until they have a clean report on file.
  • Get your car ready for sale. As you're cleaning, remove any personal information or paperwork from your console. Save any oil change or maintenance receipts you find lying around to show the buyer should they ask to see them.
  • Decide what you want to include with the car: Ask yourself: Do I need that backup cam and after-market stereo system? Some accessories add no extra value to the vehicle and may actually be worth more when sold separately.
  • Though not mandatory, it's always a good idea to have your car inspected by a mechanic before transferring it to another person. Selling a dud-- whether accidentally or on purpose--can have legal consequences in some states, so it's better to be on the safe side.
  • Check the Kelley Blue Book Value for your car and decide the price (or price range) you're comfortable with.
  • Decide whether you want to advertise online or go through a dealership or car-buying company--this is an essential step since it sets the tone for your selling experience.
  • Screen any serious inquiries. Ask that interested parties call rather than text--this way, you can get a better feel for their intentions. If something seems sketchy, don't proceed with the sale.
  • Once you've located a prospective buyer, encourage them to come to see the car and take it for a spin. Most people aren't going to buy a vehicle without test-driving it first.
  • Pay off any liens and have the lender file a lien release form so you can have the title put back in your name. This process can take two weeks to a month, if you can, try to get a head start on this before you close the sale.

** Some sellers choose to sell their car in order to pay off the lien, using the money from the transaction to settle the debt. If this scenario applies to you, be sure the buyer knows they won't receive the title or bill of sale until the debt is paid.

** The bill of sale should have a lienholder clause that states the car is free from liens, signing this document prematurely could get you in trouble for perjury.

  • Talk to your insurance agent to see what materials they need when dropping coverage to a vehicle after you transfer it. Your insurance company may have special requirements, especially if you're moving coverage from one car to another.
  • Sever any remaining ties to the vehicle: cancel the insurance, cancel any subscriptions like On-star road assistance or XM radio. This will keep you from incurring charges for these services after the car is transferred
  • Draft a bill of sale
  • Remove the vehicle tag, and then you'll need to either return it to the DMV or transfer it to a different one you own.

Drafting a bill of sale in Illinois

Illinois requires sellers to list more information on a bill of sale than most other states. Aside from the title, this is the most important document when selling your car. Both the seller and buyer should keep a copy for legal and insurance purposes.

What to include in the bill of sale:

  • Preface the document with this phrase: "I (legal name of seller) of (seller's address) declare that I am the legal and lawful owner of the (item) and have the authority to sell it."
  • The vehicle's description including the make, model, vehicle year, body style, and color
  • Vehicle Identification Number
  • Car mileage
  • The seller's registration number
  • The legal name and address of the seller
  • The legal name and address of the buyer
  • Whether or not you've filed a title application for the vehicle
  • A declaration of sale and odometer disclosure. This will read something like:

** "I (legal name of seller) do hereby sell, convey, and transfer the above-described item for (purchase price paid) to (legal name and address of buyer) as full payment for the purchase of the said vehicle, which is sold AS IS.’ I hereby state that the mileage of the vehicle at the time of the sale is (exact mileage).”

  • A statement recognizing the sale and transfer to the buyer:

** "I do hereby grant, sell and transfer full ownership of this vehicle to the buyer. I certify that this vehicle, at the time of sale, is free from all encumbrances, taxes, fees, and liens, except as those specified on the title or listed below and that I (seller) will defend and be held fully responsible for any lawful claims and demands with respect to the vehicle.”

  • The buyer will then sign and acknowledge a statement accepting responsibility for the car, and liability should the car be damaged by themselves or someone else, after the sale date.
  • The next portion should read: If applicable, I (the seller) agree to acquire the vehicle title from the lender and will arrange to transfer this document to the buyer immediately.
  • Both the buyer and seller will then sign their full name and date.
  • The last section will be a statement that everything in the bill of sale is truthful, this will read:

** "I swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the facts stated above are true and correct to the best of my knowledge."

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