Does a bill of sale for a used car between private parties need to be notarized?

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Does a bill of sale for a used car between private parties need to be notarized?

The buyer for the used vehicle wrote a bill of sale with stipulations for the seller to help cover costs of repair should that be deemed necessary after mechanical inspection, or return the vehicle to the seller and get the money back. The buyer’s wife signed the bill of sale as a witness but the contract was not notarized. Is this type of bill of sale legal?

Asked on June 19, 2012 under Business Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

All that is necessary for a valid contract is that there be an offer by one party, acceptance of that offer by other (this is also referred to as a "meeting of the minds"--i.e. that the two parties agreed on the terms), and an exchange of "consideration," or things or promises of value. A bill of sale signed by the two parties would create an enforceable contract: the fact that they signed it shows the meeting of the minds (they both agreed to the terms) and the fact that there was payment or a promise  to pay for a used car is the exchange of consideration.

As a general matter, contracts do NOT need to be notarized, and notarizing them doesn't add anything legally, though it does add a way to help prove factually that a person signed it, if he or she tries to later claim that he or she did not and someone else forged the signture. Only a few special documents, like wills (in many states) actually have to be notarized.


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