What to Include in a Bill of Sale?

At its most basic, a bill of sale should include the transaction date, the item sold and its cost, and details about the seller and buyer, along with signatures. A document with that information is acceptable as a sales slip and proof of purchase, but other information may be needed, including whether the item is being sold as-is or with a warranty, the location of the property, or plans for delivery. Here are some of the details usually included in a bill of sale:

  • Seller and Buyer: It is common to include contact information for both seller and buyer, such as address and phone number, along with a driver’s license number. Buyers may want to check a seller’s driver’s license or picture ID before handing over funds and signing the bill of sale to ensure they are buying from the person listed on the receipt.
  • Payment: In addition to the price of the item for sale, document the form of payment and whether the final total includes sales tax. If you are trading items rather than selling them for cash, describe the transaction on the bill of sale with details about each of the items being exchanged.
  • Item Description: This may be simple or detailed, depending on the item for sale and state requirements. For example, when selling a vehicle, you usually need to include the vehicle identification number (VIN) and odometer reading. If you are selling a horse, you’ll need information about registration and breeding.
  • Date: The sale date represents when responsibility for an item was transferred from one individual to another. This date does not necessarily indicate ownership, such as in a vehicle purchase, where the buyer only becomes the legal owner once they register the car.
  • As-is or Warranty: Selling an item “as-is” means the buyer accepts the item in its current state, including any defects that might not be immediately apparent. This type of sale protects the seller from having to refund the buyer or repair the item if issues arise after the sale. When selling something as-is, it’s important to state so clearly on the bill of sale. In some cases, a seller may choose to offer a warranty as an incentive to buyers. In this instance, sellers should explain on the bill of sale what will and will not be provided or covered under the warranty, and for what period of time.
  • Witness: Some states require a notarized bill of sale when an individual is selling a vehicle. Check with your local DMV to determine what documents and procedures you need to complete. Even if you don’t need a notary to witness your bill of sale, you may choose to have a third party sign the document to show that he or she observed the buyer and seller signatures.

A bill of sale is comparable to a receipt, whereas a sales agreement acts as a contract. Since a bill of sale may contain as-is or warranty information, it’s important to read the document closely and make sure all the terms are understood and accurate. Especially for high-price items or more complicated agreements, a seller or buyer may want to have a third party, such as an attorney, check the bill of sale to ensure critical information isn’t missing.