Selling Your Car if You Owe Money on It

It's possible to sell a car even if you still have an outstanding loan balance on the vehicle. This just adds a step to the transaction: closing the loan with your lender.

  • Call your lending institution to determine the best way to close out the loan. At the same time, ask about obtaining a lien release, which states that there are no outstanding loan obligations on your car.
  • If you owe more on your loan than you can readily pay prior to a sale, it's possible to close the loan and transfer ownership at the same time. For instance, can facilitate payment to the lien holder during a normal escrow transaction. There are other sites that offer this service; be sure to thoroughly check out any site where you might transfer your money.
  • If neither of these options is satisfactory, conduct the sale at the bank or credit union that holds the title or lien on your car. Just pay off the loan balance with the sale proceeds and sign over the title to the new owner. Call the lending institution beforehand to facilitate this transaction. If the lien holder is out of state, take the bill of sale to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a temporary operating permit for the buyer. Then, once you've paid off the loan, you can send the signed title to the new owner. While this option involves more faith on the part of the buyer, you can tell the buyer that it's also in your best interest to transfer the title as soon as possible to eliminate your personal liability.
  • Leased cars represent a different situation. If you want to transfer your current lease to a new owner, you're better off using a lease-transfer service.
© 4/30/13
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