One of the most important pieces of information to include in a Bill of Sale for a motor vehicle is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) because it allows the vehicle to be properly identified and helps to ensure the title of ownership is rightfully transferred from seller to buyer. Without a VIN, the buyer may not be able to register or drive the vehicle legally.

What is a VIN?

A VIN is a unique serial number that a manufacturer assigns to a motor vehicle, like a car or truck. While the standards for issuing a VIN may vary by jurisdiction, it is typically a combination of 17 numbers and letters that help to identify vehicle attributes such as:

  • The country where the vehicle was manufactured
  • The company that manufactured the vehicle
  • Characteristics like the car series, engine type, and body style (e.g. Ford Focus, 2L engine, station wagon)
  • The year the vehicle was manufactured
  • The serial number that identifies the vehicle (typically, it’s the last five digits that make a VIN unique to a specific vehicle)

You can use a VIN both to identify a vehicle and to research its history. For instance, you can submit the VIN to a verification service to discover who previously owned the vehicle, what damages or defects may be present, or whether or not the vehicle was written off or stolen at any point.

Where Can I Find My Vehicle’s VIN?

There are several places where you can look to identify your vehicle’s VIN:

  • The driver’s side interior dashboard
  • The inside of the driver’s side door
  • Under the hood, often on the front of the engine block
  • The vehicle owner’s manual

In most jurisdictions, vehicles that drive on public roads must have a visible VIN. If you cannot find the VIN on a vehicle, there may be a chance the vehicle was severely damaged, altered, or assembled by someone at home (in which case, the car may have been built by an unlicensed mechanic with random parts that cannot be easily replaced or repaired).

A vehicle with a missing VIN may need to pass an inspection and gain approval for a new VIN before you’re able to sell, register, or drive it.

Read More: 5 Reasons Why Your Used Car Isn’t Selling

Why Do I Need a Bill of Sale?

A Bill of Sale is a document you’ll need to transfer ownership of a vehicle from seller to buyer. Without one, a buyer may not be considered the legal owner of a vehicle—even if they’ve paid cash for it—and may not be able to get it registered or on the road.

A Bill of Sale can also be an asset to a seller who wishes to be clear about their responsibilities after the sale goes through. For instance, a Bill of Sale typically allows a seller to disclaim any implied warranties by asking the buyer to accept the vehicle “as is”. In this case, the buyer accepts the vehicle in its existing condition and agrees not to hold the seller liable for any issues that may arise in the future.

Read More: Steering Clear of Online Fraud: Tips for Buyers and Sellers

Including a VIN in Your Bill of Sale

A Bill of Sale for a motor vehicle is incomplete without a VIN: with this information, buyers can verify important characteristics about a vehicle and sellers can ensure that the title of ownership is transferred legally to the buyer.  

Posted by Jasmine Roy

Jasmine has been writing for LawDepot since 2018. She is a writer with a passion for politics, law, and sociology. She's particularly interested in writing about real estate and family law.