How to sell a deceased relative's car

Updated February 21, 2017

Selling a car yourself can be a time-consuming process, but when the car belongs to a dead relative there are additional roadblocks you must legally resolve before attempting the sale. The only person legally allowed to sell a car is its rightful owner. Before you can sell the car you must assume ownership by filling out the proper paperwork with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Call the branch office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that's closest to your deceased relative's house. Inform the official there that you want to transfer the deceased's car into your name and ask what paperwork you need to submit.

The exact documentation you need varies by state, but you'll typically need to provide the will, the original car title, your relative's death certificate and proof of your own identity.

Gather all necessary documentation. Then make photocopies of everything before you visit the DMV, so that you have copies for your records.

Visit the DMV with all of this information you need. Discuss title transfer with a clerk, who should give you a state-specific form to fill out so that you can transfer the vehicle into your name. Pay the proper fee to finalise the transaction.

Fees vary by state; as of July 2010, Pennsylvania charges a £14.60 fee for title transfer (with no fee for spouses), while California assesses a £6 fee to transfer the title of a deceased person's car.

Inform the clerk that you intend to sell the car shortly and ask what type of paperwork you will need to fill out when selling the car (this varies by state). If you need to complete paperwork to conclude the sale, obtain a blank form from the DMV officials. If the buyer needs to do this, confirm that you have no further responsibility once you sell the car and transfer the new title to the buyer. Once you receive the new title, you are the new owner and are free to sell the car.

Research the car's value on Kelley Blue Book (see Resources). Enter in the car's make, model, year and mileage to obtain a suggested value. If you want to sell the car quickly, discount the suggested value.

List your car for sale online (see Resources). This allows you to reach a wide audience of prospective buyers. Post images of the car plus a description that covers its age, condition, location and any important information (such as the type of radio or media player in the car, whether the car has a GPS system or whether it's manual or automatic). Correspond with interested buyers and make appointments to show them the vehicle.

Take out a classified advertisement in your local newspaper to reach an audience within your community. Include the car's year, make and model, a brief description and your telephone number. Correspond with interested parties via telephone.

Finalise the sale when a prospective buyer confirms her interest. Obtain a cash or check payment. Present the buyer with the title. Complete the buyer's personal information, the car's odometer count and your personal information in the correct slots on the title. Turn over the keys and give the buyer her new car.

Complete any follow-up paperwork with the DMV for your state if you need to do so.


Clean the car before you attempt to sell it to make it more attractive to buyers.

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