How to Sell a Car in California

Car dealer giving car key to buyer

Whether you want to upgrade your current ride or unload an unused second car in El Cajon, learning how to sell a car in California can help you score some extra cash. But, learning how to sell a car privately in California is a very different experience than selling to a dealership. Which is right for you? Let’s go through the key differences between the two methods, then start planning for your upcoming sale!


How to Sell a Car Privately in California

Whether you want to “sell my car in San Diego county or Los Angeles county,” learning how to sell a car privately in California can be a process. Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Pricing: What price is appropriate for your area? Checking sites like Kelley Blue Book and other assessment sites can help you get a good ballpark figure, but ultimately, the price is up to you.
  2. Advertising: There are tons of different sites online to advertise your car, and you’ll need to put together a package that attracts customers. Take photos, explain your car’s great qualities clearly, and be sure to show both the inside and outside of the vehicle.
  3. Appointments: Meet with potential customers and answer any questions. Expect to conduct test drives during this time and be prepared to move quickly if you find a suitable buyer.
  4. Paperwork: When you’re ready to transfer ownership to your buyer, settle your paperwork with the DMV. Gather the vehicle title, the signature of the seller and lienholder (if applicable), and the buyer’s signature. Visit your local DMV in La Mesa or Chula Vista to start the process.
  5. Smog Certification: Most locations require a valid smog certification at a STAR station. This is valid for 90 days, so be sure to schedule your certification wisely. There are some exceptions to this requirement, including electric vehicles and newer models.
  6. Vehicle Inspection: Typically, the buyer will pay for a vehicle inspection to ensure that there are no surprises when they take over. A vehicle history report will also show things like accidents and other issues for peace of mind.
  7. Pay Fees: Beyond the transfer fees, you may need to pay fees like: duplicate title, transfer, use tax, registration, and more.
  8. Buyer Paperwork: Both the seller and buyer will need to fill out form REG 262, or the Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment. Be sure to have the lienholder release form ready if necessary.
  9. Submit Paperwork: Submit your transfer documents to the DMV, or fill out the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability online. ​​You’ll need to have the seller’s full name and address, the VIN number, and license plate numbers.

How to Sell a Used Car in California at a Dealership

If you’re tired just from reading the steps above, don’t forget that you have a second option when selling your car. Learning how to sell a used car in California at a dealership is much easier, because the dealership takes care of everything for you. Value your trade online to see how much you can expect, then visit our dealership in San Diego for your in-person assessment to finalize the deal. Our team will have the paperwork prepared and ready to go, and all you’ll need are the keys and the title!

Sell Your Car with Kearny Mesa Kia

Now you know how to sell a car in California on the private market and at a dealership. If you want to learn more about selling to Kearny Mesa Kia, we’d be happy to help. Contact us to learn more, or stop by San Diego. You can even shop and test drive from home!

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