Selling Your Car In California Heres What You Need To Do

All good things must come to an end, including your "relationship" with your car.  But just like ending a social relationship, selling your car can bring an unexpected and unpleasant outcome if it's not done correctly.
Luckily, selling your car in California isn't quite as dramatic or difficult as ending a relationship with a real person.  There are some very clear-cut rules to follow to ensure a smooth transition.

Why It's Important Not to Ignore These Rules

Read carefully, since it's important to do this right.  The last thing you want to do is run afoul of state laws and local regulations or just as bad: participate in a sale that isn't legally binding!
Plus, you won't want to be responsible for any violations committed or lawsuits brought to court involving the vehicle after the date of sale.  That should be encouragement enough for anyone to play by the rules!  Here they are:

You Must Get a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability

The Notice Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) documents the sale of a vehicle in the State of California, and it's required within five days of the sale of your vehicle.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will only recognize your sale once you've procured this document, so don't expect them legal owner transfer to actually be legal in the DMV's eyes until you get the NRL.
As the name suggests, once this document is completed by you and submitted and then accepted by the DMV, you are released from liability for that vehicle.  Let's take a look at how this works.

How to Fill Out and Submit the NRL

Good news: the NRL may be filled out online and submitted electronically.  For those of you who would rather file actual paperwork, you may also download a copy of the NRL from the State of California website and mail it in.
Make sure to keep a copy for your records, though.  Likewise, if you file electronically, you will get a confirmation of submission email, so keep a record of that, too.
The NRL is filled out and submitted after you've sold your car.  When a lender or lienholder is involved in the transfer, no NRL is needed.

Details, Details...

You may have someone else file the NRL for you, but of course you are ultimately responsible for whether it gets filed, gets filed on time, and is filled out properly.  If cousin Joe isn't as reliable as you'd like him to be, don't leave it up to him to file your NRL for you.
You'll need:

  • license plate number
  • VIN
  • Make & model
  • Odometer reading
  • Date of Sale
  • Buyer's and Seller's names and addresses

The only data that's not absolutely required is the name and address of your buyer.  Just write "unknown" if you don't have them.
Finally, once submitted, you may request a copy of your NRL by submitting yet another form, the Request for Record Information (INF 70) here.  There is a fee.
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  • Notice of Release of Liability Information.  California Department of Motor Vehicles.  Retrieved 5/30/2016 from
  • Instructions for Completing INF 70. California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved 5/30/2016 from