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What Is a Bill of Sale?
A bill of sale, proof of purchase, proof of payment, As Is Bill of Sale, Proof of Sale, Sales Slip, or Sales Receipt, is a document or receipt used to transfer the ownership of an object such as a vehicle. This document becomes important when you need to buy or sell personal property. You may associate bills of sale with used vehicles, but you can use this document for a variety of items.
A bill of sale will detail a transfer of property or sale of items between a seller and buyer. This type of document serves as legal evidence that the seller transferred his or her rights to the assets described in the bill of sale.
A bill of sale must include key information such as the following:
- Names of the buyer and seller.
- Contact details.
- A description of the item(s) being sold.
- The price of the item(s).
- Methods of payment.
- Warranty details.
You'll typically see a bill of sale used to record the sale of automobiles, motorcycles, watercrafts, or other objects associated with transportation. You can also use a bill of sale to record the transfer of personal property, such as purchasing or selling a used car. A bill of sale is also useful for transfer of other personal property such as a bicycle, furniture, a laptop, or an animal such as a horse or other livestock.
This legal document records a transfer of ownership of an asset from one party to another. As a rule, the seller will draft the document. A bill of sale should include all details of the transaction as a way to protect both parties if a disagreement about the condition of the item or terms of the sale occurs. Since a bill of sale will include details about the condition of the item sold and any warranties, as well as terms of payment, this document acts as legal proof of the agreement.
When Should I Use a Bill of Sale?
You should use a bill of sale for the following circumstances:
- You own property you would like to sell and need to have a record of the purchase detail for accounting records. Examples of property include a motor vehicle (such as a car) or other personal property, but not real estate.
- You plan to purchase a motor vehicle or other property from a private seller, and you want to record the proof of purchase and the details of your agreement in writing.
- A proof of purchase is required. Many states will require a signed bill of sale in cases when you are transferring a title with a state's department of motor vehicles (DMV) or buying and selling branded livestock.
Some transactions involve an exchange of property but do not require a bill of sale, including the following:
- Real estate. You can't use a bill of sale to transfer real estate between owners because real estate transactions are more complicated than the types of transactions listed above. You will need additional forms from your state or local government, or a quit claim deed (a legal instrument used to transfer interest in real property) when you're dealing with a real estate transaction.
- Performance of services. A bill of sale transfers ownership, not services. If you're providing or obtaining a service such as business consulting or babysitting, you should instead use a general contract for these services. If you own a business that receives payment for selling products, a general receipt is sufficient.
- Small-scale sales. Although deciding whether you want a bill of sale for inexpensive property is a matter of personal preference, many people don't feel that creating a bill of sale for less expensive items is necessary. A bill of sale is not required for small-scale sales.
If you're not certain whether you need a bill of sale, you should consult an attorney . An attorney can help ensure you're using the correct document and are including all information that you need for your transaction.
Transferring Ownership of a Vehicle With a Bill of Sale
You must understand the intricacies of the bill of sale with motor vehicles if you plan to buy or sell an automobile. An automobile bill of sale represents that the right to ownership of the vehicle has been transferred. However, the vehicle's certificate of title represents the actual ownership. Every state requires this certificate of title, a document that records official proof of ownership of a vehicle.
If you are the purchaser of a vehicle, you can apply for a title in your name at your state's DMV when you have the signed bill of sale and pay a title transfer fee. In some states, the DMV requires a bill of sale signed by both the seller and the buyer. Some states require a notarized bill of sale as well.
Sale Contract vs. Bill of Sale
Make sure you understand the differences between a sale contract and a bill of sale when deciding which document you need.
A sale contract:
- Is executed between a buyer and seller.
- Details the terms for a buyer to agree to purchase an item and a seller to agree to sell it.
- Records the future sale of an item. A sale contract is used before an exchange of an item occurs.
A bill of sale:
- Transfers ownership.
- Provides details of the exact item a buyer will receive.
- Promises that the person selling the items has a valid title to the item as well as the right to transfer the title.
- May include warranties about the item sold and its future performance, or show that the item was sold "as is" and disclaim all warranties.
- Used during or after a product exchange.
Bill of Sale Templates
How Can I Write a Bill of Sale?
Some county tax assessor-collector's offices or local DMVs provide bill of sale forms that you can use. Some sellers also choose to create their own bill of sale. Since requirements vary by state, check your state's requirements to make certain your document complies with them. In some states, only the buyer needs to sign the bill of sale. Other states will require both the seller and buyer to sign. Requirements for notarization also vary among states.
Include the following essential pieces of information:
- Name and address of the seller.
- Name and address of the buyer.
- Date of transaction.
- Previous owner(s) (in other words, if someone first sold the item to the seller, this fact should be included).
Description of the item
- Identification number.
- Serial number.
- Any special marks or features.
- Any faults of the item.
- Special conditions to the sale (for example, if the item is sold as is or with warranty).
Additional information needed for vehicle sales
- VIN, or vehicle identification number.
- License plate number.
- Amount paid (write out in words and in numbers).
Method of payment.
- Did the buyer pay in installments or in full?
- Did the buyer pay with cash, credit card, bank deposit, or check?
Agreements (if applicable) concerning
- Deadlines for pending payments.
- Terms for late payments.
- Interest rates.
Before completing the transaction, make sure the bill of sale is completely legible and verify that all information and signatures are accurate. Finally, make copies of the document for both the buyer and the seller.
Protect yourself as either a buyer or seller with a carefully constructed bill of sale the next time you enter into a legal transaction.
Meet some of our Bill of Sale Lawyers
In his firm, Talented Tenth Law, Antoine focuses on helping people maximize their protection and prosperity in the courtroom and the boardroom. His firm’s services include representing people in lawsuits involving breach of contract, many types of civil lawsuits and helping business owners win government contracts among other things.
Tom is a former chief legal officer of public and private companies. He has extensive experience in mergers & acquisitions, commercial transactions, joint ventures, finance, securities laws and general corporate law across a broad range of industries, including construction, consumer products, e-commerce, energy and healthcare. As an attorney who practiced at two different Top 50 international law firms, he can deliver "Big Law" service at a competitive price. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Tom served as an officer in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. He served a tour in Iraq where he led a reconnaissance platoon and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
Craig E. Yaris is a partner at Parlatore Law Group, with the experience and drive to handle all your Franchise, General Business Practice, and Mediation needs. As a former small business owner and Chief Operating Officer of a franchisor himself, Mr. Yaris is passionate about promoting business growth. He has experience handling daily operations, employee disputes, and negotiations of pertinent contracts for a franchise company with 100 locations in five states, where he organized and conducted semi- annual meetings to educate and inform franchisees of best practices for improved growth. In addition, Mr. Yaris was responsible for the preparation and filing of the UFOC (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular) in several states and is well-versed in business formation. Between his time as Franchisor and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Mr. Yaris was the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of an online company whose goal was to help inform marketers and business owners of the fast-paced and ongoing changes within their specific verticals. This experience helped him hone his research and writing skills and prepared him for the cloud-based aspects of Parlatore Law Group. Mr. Yaris also has extensive experience in public speaking, as he has planned and delivered several keynote addresses and educational seminars for many New York-based organizations, and as a Continuing Education Instructor for Hofstra University. Prior to joining Parlatore Law Group, Mr. Yaris worked as a Patient Advocate, and more recently, a Conflict Resolution Specialist, where he mediated and resolved disputes on behalf of patients with insurance companies. In this role, he negotiated for coverage of previously denied medications and medical procedures as well as successfully mediated disputes between individuals and business partners which would have otherwise resulted in protracted litigation. In addition, he has experience mediating employer and employee disputes as well as helping resolve family conflict. He has also studied and attended many Non-Violent Communication (NVC) workshops and strives to bring these tools and methods to all of his mediations. His variety of experiences speak to his ability to handle small business needs at all stages of business growth and development. Mr. Yaris also has experience with business growth and development, as he has worked with several small business on creating and implementing strategies for steady growth. In addition, to spending time with family, Mr. Yaris volunteers his time helping spread the message of the ACLU and he supports many local charities focused on families and children. He is admitted to practice in New York.
Amy has served as outside general counsel and litigator to established businesses throughout western Washington since 2010. Her passion and focus is providing the best possible representation for clients in the construction, transportation and hospitality industries.
I am bar certified in the lovely state of Missouri. I received my J.D. from The University of Iowa College of Law (2019) and my B.A. in Political Science from BYU-Idaho (2015).
I am a solo practitioner with offices in Denver, Colorado and Austin, Texas with a focus on general business and real estate contracts.
Experienced business and contract lawyer. Our firm specializes in commercial litigation and dispute resolution.