Selling a Car in PA: What You Should Know

Thinking of selling a car in PA? If you live in downtown Philadelphia and want to ditch your car or live in a suburban area and are ready for something new, you might be wondering what to do next. There’s always the dealership option available, but since the pandemic started there’s been a used car boom, making a private market sale an attractive option. If you live in Pennsylvania, here’s how to sell a car in PA.

How to Sell a Car in Pennsylvania | Metromile

Step 1: Snag some great pics 

Selling a car on the private market means that you have to do the marketing. To do that, snag some great pics of your car. Just like you see enticing photos of houses and apartments on places like Zillow, you need something similar when selling a car. 

Take photos of the interior of your car as well as  the exterior of your car. Before you do that, obviously spruce up the car a bit by  removing your belongings and trash. Also, give it a wash so it sparkles and shines. 

Your photos will do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to selling the car. Remember, people don’t just buy cars sight unseen. It’s a process. Your first goal isn’t to sell the car, your goal is to get a prospective buyer to take the next step with you, which is likely to come and see the car in person. 

Step 2: Put up your car for sale 

After snagging some great pics, it’s time to put up your car for sale. You can add the photos and a comprehensive description of your car to various car marketplaces. 

For example, this can include Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Include the year, make, model, color, and anything that buyers should be aware of before seeing the car, so they know of any potential issues. Once you have photos and a description uploaded, press submit. Then your job is to weed through responses and take people to the next step. 

Step 3: Take the next step with a vehicle history report and/or inspection 

What takes a buyer from “I’m just looking” to “I’m interested in buying”? If the prospective buyer wants a vehicle inspection. It’s always a good idea to provide a vehicle history report from a place like CarFax so that a buyer can be empowered with information about the car. In some cases, a buyer might want to take the next step and go to a mechanic of their choosing to inspect the car. In that case, coordinate a time that works for both of you so you can get one step closer to selling your car. 

Step 4: Get your vehicle documents in order 

As you get closer to selling your car, make sure you have all your important vehicle documents in order. Gather your owner’s manual, a vehicle history report, and proof of ownership. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Pennsylvania website, the following documents are valid as proof of ownership:

  • Manufacturer Certificate/Statement of Origin (MCO or MSO)
  • Pennsylvania Certificate of Title
  • Out of State Certificate of Title
  • Certificate of Salvage
  • Court Order (PDF)

You’ll need one of these proof of ownership documents as part of selling a car in PA. If you previously had a lien on your vehicle, you’ll need to request a new title through Form MV-38O and pay a $58 fee. You can also use that form to get a new title if yours has been lost. 

Step 5: Accept payment and transfer the title

You’ve shown the car to some prospective buyers and finally get a response that says, “I want to buy it!”.
As part of selling a car in Pennsylvania, you need to write your name and sign on the title. Some very important points when it comes to how to sell a car in Pennsylvania: 

  • You’ll need to have your signature notarized on your vehicle title
  • You must meet with an authorized Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) representative such as an agent to transfer the title 

Additionally, you’ll need to include the mileage on the title or other proof of ownership document. Once you and the buyer sign the proof of ownership document and include the mileage, you can hand over the document to the new owner. 

Schedule a time for the buyer to come and pick up the car and hand over payment and meet with a PennDOT agent. 

It’s important to note that buyers will have to pay sales tax between 6% and 8%. Also, tax is based on the fair market value and not the final purchase price. If the car is sold for much less than the fair market value, the Department of Revenue has the authority to change the amount of sales tax due. 

Though it’s not required, you may also want to fill out a Bill of Sale to keep a paper trail and have a record of the transaction. You can use this online Bill of Sale form for Pennsylvania here. For more info, you can check out this PennDOT Fact Sheet about selling a car in PA. 

Step 6: Take off license plates 

As part of selling a car in Pennsylvania, take off your license plates as those stay with you. You’ll need to either transfer them to a new vehicle or mail them to the following address:

PennDOT at Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Return Tag Unit
P.O. Box 68597
Harrisburg, PA 17106-8597

You may also want to contact your local DMV to see if you need to report the sale and update your car insurance as well. 

The bottom line 

If you want to learn how to sell a car in Pennsylvania, you can take these six steps to get started. Selling a car in PA does require a bit more work in the sense you need your signature notarized and you need to meet with a PennDOT official. But it can be worth it to get the most out of selling your car. 

After selling your car, you may be ready to buy and upgrade to something new. During that time, you can look into affordable car insurance. If you don’t drive that often, why pay a flat rate for miles you aren’t driving? You can rethink your car insurance and pay based on the miles you drive with a low base rate, so you’re never overcharged for car insurance. Get a free quote with Metromile to see your potential savings. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.