Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

As the economy slides, more consumers are selling possessions and buying used. When looking to consign anything of yours that is of great value, especially a vehicle, always put the deal in writing.

How Car Consignments Work:

When you consign a car, the dealer will ask how much you want for it and likely suggest a lower price. So before you even drive on the lot, you should know how much your car is worth. Check used-vehicle guides, the newspaper and the Kelly Blue BookEdmunds or the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA ) Used Car Pricing Guide (Pacific Northwest edition).

Let’s say you and the dealer agree on a figure of $5,000. The dealer’s job is to sell your car for no less than $5,000; anything above that is theirs to keep. The dealer will also receive a commission equal to a percentage of the car price and a fee. Now let’s assume the dealer sells your car for $7,000. Here’s what you each get:

Your Agreed Cost = $5,000
Price that Dealer Sells Car = $7,000
- Difference = $2,000
- Dealer Commission (10% of $5,000) = $500
- Dealer Fee = $50
You Get  = $4,450
Dealer Keeps = $2,550

Questions You Should Ask:

Ask the dealer these important questions before you sign any paperwork:

  • Who is responsible for insurance? You may be responsible for the car while it’s on the lot. So check with your insurance company in advance to make sure you’re covered for theft or damages.
  • Who will pay off any liens?
  • Can the dealer accept another vehicle or personal property as part of the minimum price?
  • How long does the dealer have to find a buyer and what happens to the vehicle if it’s not sold in the time specified?
  • What repairs will be made if needed and who pays for them?
  • What specific expenses will be incurred by the dealer that may affect the seller’s payment? For example: storage, advertising, car detailing and transportation from one location to another.

Signing the Contract:

When you are ready to leave your car with a dealer, the two of you should carefully write up an agreement that includes the following terms – all required by law (RCW 46.70.028, WAC 308-66-155):

  • Names of the parties, including the legal owner of the vehicle.
  • Location of the title and guarantee by seller that they have clear title.
  • Any payoff due on vehicle.
  • The agreed price to sell the vehicle.
  • Date of the agreement.
  • Duration of the agreement.
  • A description of the vehicle, including make, model, VIN and plate number.
  • Signatures of the parties.
  • Be sure to carefully read all of the terms of the agreement, including fees.


After the Sale:

The dealer must do the following after selling your car:

  • Pay you within 10 days of when title is delivered to the purchaser.
  • Immediately provide you with a copy of the purchase order used to complete the sale.
  • Transfer the title.
  • Hold all funds in trust as required by law.

Following these steps should help for a smooth and easy transaction.