Important Terms for a Bill of Sale
- Seller(s): This section provides the full name, address, and other contact information for the primary seller. If additional sellers are involved, this section also includes their information.
- Buyer(s): This section lists the buyer’s name and contact information.
- As-is: This notes that the buyer and seller have agreed to transfer ownership of the car in its current condition. By signing a bill of sale marked as-is, a buyer confirms that they have had the chance to inspect the item and have found it acceptable.
- In consideration of the sum: This indicates the sales price. It should equal the total cost that the buyer pays to the seller.
- Vehicle/Hull Identification Number: This number is unique to each car or boat and allows for the tracking of the vehicle’s history. It should appear on all applicable bills of sale.
1. Massachusetts Bill of Sale Requirements
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires bills of sale for the registration of:
- Boats with motor propulsion
- Motor vehicles that are exempt from titling
In all other situations, a bill of sale is optional but advisable.
Why Use a Bill of Sale?
A bill of sale serves as legal evidence of a transaction. If you need to take a dispute to court, a bill of sale verifies the transfer of ownership and key details about the item. If legal action is needed, the bill of sale provides written evidence about the sale, the item, and the item’s condition.
For example, under the Massachusetts Lemon Laws, a buyer can legally reverse the purchase of a car from a private seller if the buyer discovers a serious defect that the seller failed to disclose. A bill of sale could legally verify non-disclosure.
Massachusetts only publishes one official bill of sale. It is available in English, but you may have it translated.
If you draft your own bill of sale in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you can use any language of your choice. However, if you need to submit a bill of sale written in a non-English language to the court, you will need to have it translated by a court interpreter. The Office of Court Interpreter Services publishes an updated list of qualified translators.
Number of Copies
When you complete a bill of sale form for a title-exempt vehicle or boat, you will need three copies, including one to submit with the registration application and one each for the buyer and seller. In other cases, one buyer’s copy and one seller’s copy usually suffice.
Massachusetts may permit the registration of a used car that has been assessed as a total loss, meaning that the repair cost would be higher than the car’s value. To be eligible for re-registration, the car must:
- Have a salvage title with a repairable brand, which indicates that the car can be or has been restored to operating condition.
- Pass a required salvage inspection
If you plan to sell a salvage vehicle in Massachusetts, you must complete both steps or disclose to the buyer that they will need to do so before registering the car.
A bill of sale is not required, but it is highly advisable to verify that the buyer has agreed to purchase a salvage vehicle. If you are the seller, be sure to indicate the sale in as-is condition. If you are the buyer, be sure to have the car thoroughly inspected before agreeing to the sale.
After Purchasing a Vehicle
A bill of sale helps to document transfer of ownership, but there are additional steps required to legally complete a transfer.
If You’re the Seller
When selling your car to a private party, you can verify the sale by listing the following information on the back of the title:
- Date of sale
- Odometer reading at time of sale
- Sales price
- Names and signatures of seller(s) and buyer(s)
If the title does not provide fields for recording this information, you can supplement with a self-drafted bill of sale. In addition to the above information, the bill of sale should include:
- Buyer and seller contact information
- Make, model, model year, and Vehicle Identification Number
If You’re the Buyer
After you buy a vehicle in Massachusetts, you need to get a registration and title in your name. You must submit:
- A completed Registration and Title Application
- The prior owner’s title certificate or, if the car is title-exempt, its prior registration and a bill of sale
- Any applicable fees
The Registration and Title Application includes much of the same information as a bill of sale. However, because it does not include documentation of the sale itself, you still need a bill of sale to legally verify the transaction.
2. Massachusetts Car (Vehicle) Bill of Sale
Massachusetts only requires a bill of sale to register a car if the car’s age exempts it from titling. A vehicle with a model year of 1980 or earlier does not need a title, provided it was purchased before November 26, 1990.
A bill of sale also verifies the sale and key vehicle data. This is important if any disputes arise about the agreed-upon price or condition of the car.
3. Massachusetts Boat Bill of Sale
Registration is required for all motorized boats operated on public Massachusetts waterways. If the boat is 14 feet long or longer, it must have a title as well.
If you are the seller, you must notify the Massachusetts Environmental Police within 15 days of the sale to cancel your registration. You may send a completed Motorboat, Snowmobile & OHV Registration Status Change Form to any of the five offices of the Boat, ATV, and Snowmobile Registration Bureau.
If you’re a buyer, you must complete the registration process within 20 days of purchase. Registration takes place at any of the five Bureau offices. Applicants must submit:
- Proof of ownership
- A bill of sale
- Proof of sales tax payment
- Applicable registration and title fee
- Hull Identification Number (HIN)
- Make, length, and manufacture year
Massachusetts publishes a Recreational Vessel Bill of Sale that you can use for all boat registration and titling transactions. You also have the option to draft your own bill of sale, which should include all of the information listed above.
4. Massachusetts Firearm Bill of Sale
Massachusetts requires private parties to report all sales, transfers of ownership, inheritances, or losses of firearms to the state Firearms Records Bureau through the online Gun Transaction Portal. The Portal officially documents transfer of ownership and therefore has the same legal status as a bill of sale.
Through the Portal, you will submit:
- A detailed description of the firearm including make, model, caliber, and serial number
- The license information for the seller
- The license information for the buyer
Transferring firearm ownership in Massachusetts requires both parties to have a License to Carry (LIC), Firearms Identification Card (FID), or both. Large-capacity firearms as well as any handguns, rifles, and feeding devices universally require an LTC, which is also the only license that permits concealed carry.
If you choose to create your own firearm bill of sale, whether you use PandaDoc or draft an original document, it should include license information for both buyer and seller.
5. Massachusetts Horse or Livestock Bill of Sale
Massachusetts does not require a bill of sale for horses or any other livestock. However, because livestock are high-value property, buyers and sellers should consider using a general bill of sale.
6. Massachusetts General Bill of Sale
A general bill of sale can verify the purchase of any non-regulated property. It should include all identifying information for the purchase, item, buyer, and seller, including:
- Purchase date
- Sales price
- Contact information
FAQ: About the Massachusetts Bill of Sale
What is a bill of sale?
A bill of sale is a legal document that confirms the purchase and sale of personal property. It must include all identifying information about the item and sale, including the date and price of purchase, plus contact information and signatures for the buyer and seller.
How does a bill of sale benefit the buyer?
Legal disputes can sometimes arise following transactions between private parties. A bill of sale serves as legal documentation of the sale itself, the sales price, and the condition of the item.
For example, if you buy a car that has a defect that impacts safety or significantly impairs operation, you may cancel the sale, but only if you can verify non-disclosure. A bill of sale can be an important part of that process.
How do I get a bill of sale?
Sellers usually draft bills of sale, but a buyer is free to do so as well. You can use a state-drafted document when you buy or sell a boat, but for other transactions, you will need to create your own. You may choose to use PandaDoc templates, especially for high-value items, to be sure that all key information is present.
What information do I need for a bill of sale?
Bills of sale should contain all information that may be necessary to verify the identity of the buyer, seller, and item, including:
- A description and identifying information for the sold item
- Terms and conditions of the sale
- Purchase price
- Date of sale
- Contact information and signatures from the buyer and seller
Massachusetts does not require bills of sale to include notary signatures.