What Are the Seller’s Responsibilities When Selling a Car in California?


Are you thinking, “how do I sell my car” in Oakland, or the wider California? If so, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, and what legal responsibilities you have when selling your car.

There are three major laws regarding the seller of a vehicle’s responsibilities specific to California that you need to be aware of, alongside the general laws of selling a vehicle in the U.S. These three laws regard California’s smog certificates, the release of liability, and the California pink slip.

California has a smog certificate system to ensure that most modern vehicles (vehicle models built after 1975 for gasoline cars, and after 1997 for diesel cars) emissions systems are in working order. This means that you, the seller of the car, are completely responsible for ensuring the vehicle has a valid smog certification upon sale.

Irrespective of whether you are selling your car with a company such as Cash for Cars in Oakland or you are selling it privately, you are responsible for ensuring it has a valid smog certification. To get a smog certification for the vehicle you are selling, take the vehicle to a DMV-authorized smog check station near you who will be able to complete a smog check and issue a valid certification.

Depending on who completes the smog check, the check should cost anywhere between $30 and $60. If your vehicle passes, you will receive a state-issued sticker for your dashboard as proof. In the event that your vehicle fails the smog check, you will need to have it diagnosed and repaired at a licensed Smog Check repair station.

Release of Reliability

The second seller’s responsibility specific to California is the release of reliability paperwork. If you are planning to get cash for your car in Oakland, or any other Californian city, you will need to file your release of reliability form to inform the DMV that you are no longer responsible for any tickets, fees or penalties incurred by the operation of the vehicle.

This is extremely important unless you want to be the one getting into trouble for whatever the new owner does with the car. To complete this form, simply download it from the DMV website, fill it out, and email it back to them. To fill out the form, you will need to know the license plate number of the vehicle being sold, the last five digits of the vehicle identification number (VIN), and the name and address of the new owner. It is best to have these on hand to save time.

Though not specific to California, you will need to complete the California legal release, which requires the seller to sign so as to legally release ownership of the vehicle and transfer it to someone else. It is important that after making the transfer you complete the release of liability form within five days in order to finalize the sale.

The California Pink Slip

The third of the laws around selling vehicles specific to California is the California pink slip. Officially known as the certificate of title, but more colloquially known as a pink slip due to the certificate’s original color, this is what officially displays the owner of the vehicle. Because the state of California does not recognize a difference between the lienholder of a vehicle and the legal owner, you will need to make sure that before sale the vehicle has the correct title and that if there is a lienholder release, it is notarized to make it valid.

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