Having bought and sold a number of vehicles in the state of Texas over the past year, a friend of mine recently asked me for some help with the process. True to anything state-related, there's a network of forms and filings required. If you screw up any of the process, you can wind up being liable for tickets and accidents incurred by the vehicle. This has actually happened to me twice now, albeit I've been covered by the paperwork I filed in both cases.
If you follow these five steps, you'll be covered for any case that could arise from the sale and transfer through a private-party.
On the back of your title, you (as the seller) have to sign the title over to the new owner. He or she keeps the title and is then responsible for mailing it in to the title department. Since I live in Austin, I typically take this directly to them, but I digress.
Download and fill out Form-130U. You (as the seller) need to fill out and sign the middle section and the buyer can fill out the rest.
Obviously you're supposed to fill out the actual sale price of the vehicle, but since I strongly disagree with any form of taxation, even more so when it involves double-taxation (as this process does), I would encourage you to fill out whatever value you feel comfortable with (see the bottom of this post for more information).
If you forget to sign this section, you'll either have to meet with the buyer a second time or they will have to forge your signature in order to get the title properly transferred.
It's a good idea to exchange an informal document so that you've got something between you. Just print out two copies and fill it out by hand. Each of you should keep one copy. At a minimum, you'll want the form to include each of your names, driver's license numbers, and the VIN.
It's not required, but is good for having a record of the sale.
Once you have completed all of this, fill out the vehicle transfer notification form online. This is to protect both the seller and buyer, but mostly the seller. It's easier to complete if you do so with the buyer there, but it's certainly not necessary. Be sure to print out the response you get from the state.
Take all of this paperwork and file it away in a manila folder. I find that most people are really bad at keeping up with paperwork, but I've twice had to pull out the Vehicle Transfer form to clear my name of tolls the buyer had accrued on my vehicles.
The Standard Presumptive Value
Finally, the SPV (Standard Presumptive Value) is an utterly bullshit mechanism that the State of Texas came up with for combating people who have set the sales price of the vehicle too low on form 130-U. I note that this is utterly bullshit because I conducted a private study of the system about a year ago and discovered some alarming results. After running statistics on about 20,000 vehicles, I found that inexpensive cars were valued at or above their actual sales price, and higher-end vehicles were valued well under theirs. The State of Texas actually has a calculator available online so you can see how they appraise any vehicle.
As an example, when I genuinely paid $900 for a used Camry, the state taxed me as if I had paid $1,600 for it. So not only was the state double-taxing the car (actually quadruple-taxing since it had 3 previous owners), but they weren't even taxing it at the rate I paid for the vehicle. I was ignorant of the process when I made this purchase. It happened again when I purchased a Toyota Tacoma for $5000. The truck was undervalued due to extensive damage on the back of it, but since the state ignores any relevance of condition, they deemed it to be worth almost $9000. They wanted to tax me accordingly, but I fought against that. To prove it was worth much less, I had to get an appraisal from a certified dealer for $100 (the state minimum that he could charge) just to illustrate why I should be taxed less.
Worse still is that when I compared this with higher-end vehicles (a Corvette listed at $60,000 say), the SPV would actually come in substantially lower than the actual vehicle value.
Again, I'm 100% opposed to any kind of taxation, but even more so when it's designed to further fuck the poor as this system most clearly is intended to do.
How to Fuck the State of Texas
In short, go to the state's SPV Calculator. Type in the VIN and the mileage of your vehicle (whether you're the buyer or seller). The program will spit out a vehicle appraisal. The state will take the greater of this number and whatever you fill out on Form 130-U and tax you at that value. Obviously don't put a penny more than what the SPV comes back as.