Think about the last time you made a purchase — whether it was online or in person. You made your payment and, almost immediately after that, you received a receipt.
Maybe you tossed it into your shopping bag and promptly forgot about it. Or maybe you moved it to a specific folder in your inbox so you could return to it if you need it.
Either way, whether you realized it or not, that seemingly innocuous receipt that you didn’t pay much attention to is actually a type of a simple bill of sale.
What is a bill of sale?
A bill of sale is a document that transfers the ownership of a good from one person to another. That sounds fancy, but it’s a lot like a receipt — it’s a piece of paper that confirms a sale has been made.
A bill of sale is most commonly used for the sale of various transportation items, such as vehicles, motorcycles, or boats. However, you can use a bill of sale when transferring ownership of any large item — whether that’s a piece of industry equipment your business no longer needs or some used furniture you won’t keep as part of your office remodel.
When you sell something like that, your bill of sale will include basic information like:
- Seller name and contact information
- Buyer name and contact information
- Description of the item(s) you’re selling
- Price of the item(s) you’re selling
- Date the sale was made
- Space for the buyer and seller to sign
While the name “bill of sale” sounds formal and rigid, it’s pretty straightforward: it’s simply a short document that serves as proof that the ownership of an item has moved to someone else.
What does a simple bill of sale look like?
What your bill of sale will look like depends on the specifics of what you’re selling — that directly influences the information you need to include.
For example, if you’re selling a vehicle, then you’ll include information like the make, model, year, VIN number, and odometer reading. But if you’re selling a piece of equipment, you might need the model, year, and serial number.
Regardless of the specifics, this simple bill of sale example should give you a general idea of what a bill of sale can look like:
Bill of Sale
Seller’s Name: Michael Scott
Seller’s Address: 1234 Electric City Ave., Scranton, PA 54321
Seller’s Contact Information: [email protected], 303-867-5309
Buyer’s Name: Dwight Schrute
Buyer’s Address: 7890 Paper Pass, Scranton, PA 54321
Buyer’s Contact Information: [email protected], 303-123-4567
On this 19th day of January, 2023, the Seller grants sale and transfers ownership of the following goods:
- 2004 Chrysler Sebring Limited convertible, 196,592 miles
This good is exchanged for $22,000 USD paid in full with a cash payment.
Seller’s Signature: ____________________________________________ Date: ______________________
Buyer’s Signature:____________________________________________ Date: ______________________
Pretty straightforward, right? Generally, your simple bill of sale doesn’t need to take up more than a single page, unless there is a lot of information you need to include about the specific goods you’ve sold.
Is a bill of sale the same as a receipt?
A bill of sale and a sales receipt have a lot of similarities. In fact, a receipt is considered a type of bill of sale.
The primary difference between the two is that a bill of sale will include more detailed information about the item that’s been sold, while a receipt might only include a couple of words to name the item.
Absolute bill of sale vs. conditional bill of sale: What’s the difference?
As you do a bit more research about creating a bill of sale, you’ll come across these two terms: an absolute bill of sale and a conditional bill of sale. Here’s the gist, according to Cornell Law School:
- Absolute bill of sale: Used when a good is paid for in full and in “as is” condition. For example, a buyer pays cash to purchase a vehicle.
- Conditional bill of sale: Used when conditions need to be placed on the buyer’s ownership. For example, you want the buyer to notify you in the event they plan to resell the item.
An absolute bill of sale is used in most situations where you need to offload an item and be done. But make sure to do your research to figure out which one is the right fit for your situation — it’ll prevent headaches down the line.
Why should you use a bill of sale?
When you’re selling a larger item, you’re eager to collect your money and move on. So, is it worth taking the time to draw up this document? Creating a bill of sale offers a number of benefits, including:
- Providing evidence: When you’re making a sale, you want the evidence that you’ve transferred ownership — and the buyer will want proof that they’re the new owner. The bill of sale gives everybody peace of mind that they have their sale or purchase in writing.
- Staying compliant: In some states and situations, a bill of sale might even be required. For example, there are some states that require a bill of sale in order to certify ownership and complete the sale of a vehicle. In those cases, drafting the bill of sale ensures that you’re abiding by any regulations in your area (and helps you avoid any fees, problems, or penalties down the line).
- Aligning expectations: Both the buyer and seller will need to review and sign the bill of sale. When doing so, they’ll look over the details of the item and confirm their understanding of exactly what’s being sold as well as the item’s condition or inclusions. This can help prevent any disputes from coming up later.
At the end of the day, a simple bill of sale should only take you 10 minutes or so to put together — and that’s a worthy investment for the reassurance it gives you.
Who writes a bill of sale?
Here’s the simplest answer: the seller. If you’re the one selling the item, then you’re responsible for drafting the bill of sale for you and the buyer to sign.
Once the bill of sale is completed, allow the buyer to keep the original — but not before making a copy for yourself. You’ll both want to have that document for your records.
Can you handwrite a bill of sale?
Technically, yes — there’s nothing wrong with handwriting a bill of sale, provided it includes all of the relevant information.
However, considering you’ll want a few copies of the document (at least one for you and one for the buyer), you might find it easier and more efficient to create your bill of sale in a simple digital format.
How do you write a bill of sale?
A firm handshake and a nod of the head aren’t quite enough to seal the deal when you’re selling a large item — a bill of sale brings some extra clarification and formality to the sale.
But how do you create one? Rest assured, it’s not that challenging. And to make things even easier, there are plenty of free bill of sale templates you can use to avoid starting from scratch:
- Free Forms bill of sale template
- LegalContracts.com bill of sale template
- LegalTemplates bill of sale form
Regardless of whether you want to start with a template or go the total DIY route, here are six steps to help you figure out how to write a bill of sale.
1. Identify the item(s) you’re selling
Exactly what you’re selling will dictate a lot of the information that is listed in your bill of sale. The information you’d need to list when selling a vehicle will be different from what you’d list when selling several unneeded computers.
That’s why you should start by determining exactly what you need the bill of sale for.
Wondering if you can include multiple items on a single bill of sale? It’s possible — you could just list out the items and their associated costs on separate lines. However, if your items have different payment methods, payment terms, or even information like loans or liens, then it’s probably worth breaking them out into separate bills of sale to avoid confusion.
2. Check your state requirements
The “rules” about your bill of sale can get murky — and a lot of these requirements are dictated both by your location and the specific item you’re selling.
Some internet sleuthing can help you get the information you need. Use the following keywords as you search for any regulations or instructions:
[your location] [item you’re selling] bill of sale
So, for example, you might type “Wisconsin vehicle bill of sale” into your search bar. That should surface the information you need. Just make sure to check that it’s coming from a trusted and legitimate source, such as your state’s website.
3. List the buyer’s and seller’s information
The bill of sale is an agreement between you and the buyer, so you need to clearly state who you are. At a minimum, include:
- Your full names
- Your addresses
- Your contact information
You might also want to include driver’s license numbers or some other way of verifying identity, but it’s not an absolute necessity.
4. Describe the item (in detail!)
What makes a bill of sale different from a receipt is the level of detail you use to describe the item that’s being sold. While receipts might use a single line and a couple of words to indicate an item, your bill of sale should provide plenty of information.
For example, if you’re selling a car, you’ll include the year, make, model, VIN, and mileage. Or if you’re selling a piece of equipment, you’ll include the make, year, and serial number.
While you don’t need this to be hundreds of words, make sure to provide enough detail. It certainly can’t hurt.
5. Outline payment details
When you’re making a sale, the thing you care most about is the money. Your bill of sale should spell all of that out. Here are the questions your document should clearly answer:
- What is the selling price of the item?
- Is the payment in installments or paid in full?
- What method is the payment made in (cash, check, credit card, etc.)?
That’s important information to have on the record — especially if the buyer needs to maintain a certain payment schedule for installments.
6. Include space for signatures
You and your buyer both need to sign and date the bill of sale to make it “official.” Include some space at the bottom of the document where you can both sign and finalize the deal.
Those are the basic steps to create a bill of sale. But again, you might need to make other additions — from warranty information to details about loans or liens — depending on your unique situation. Even so, your bill of sale should be relatively quick and painless to put together.
How Wrike can help businesses with a simple bill of sale
Your bill of sale brings some structure and finality when you sell an item — way more than a handshake or a quick exchange of cash would. Plus, creating one bill of sale is surprisingly easy.
However, when you end up with several different bill of sale documents, it can feel like a lot to keep track of. For example, maybe your business is moving to a new office and selling a bunch of your existing furniture and equipment. You could end up with bills of sale for your desks, desk chairs, printers, scanners, break room tables, monitors, and dozens of other items.
You need a system or some resource management software to keep all of your bill of sale documents organized in case you need to refer to them in the future. Within Wrike, you can easily create folders for each item you’re selling. Those folders will serve as the place where you can store item descriptions, photos, and even your bill of sale.
And when it comes to the other documents and workflows your business needs — whether it’s vendor management or professional services management — Wrike has you covered with helpful project management software features and ready-to-use business templates.
Ready to take your business to the next level? Get started with Wrike for free today.