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How to Check a VIN Number for a Lien

by Kimberly Hurd

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is the automobile world's equivalent to a social security number. A vehicle's vital information can be found by using the VIN. You can find out everything from states the vehicle has been registered in to records of past accidents to liens taken out on the vehicle. Liens are loans taken out against specific property, such as cars. When purchasing a used car, taking the time to do a VIN report is worth the effort, especially if you are concerned about possible liens still outstanding on the vehicle.

Locate the VIN for the vehicle, which is on the driver's side dash near the windshield for most vehicles. If you are unable to locate the VIN on the driver's side dash, check the front of the engine block. Consult the vehicle's manual or the manufacturer if you can't find the VIN, as some older vehicles will have the VIN in other locations.

Gather the vehicle's registration paperwork and title, if available. Review the registration for accuracy. Review the title, checking for any liens listed. Ask the owner for this information if you are considering buying a used car.

Locate a convenient Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office by using DMVlocator.com or consulting your local phone book. Take the VIN and any other vehicle documentation paperwork to the DMV. Pay for a VIN inspection or report, which often costs less than $10, to determine whether any liens have been taken out on the vehicle and, if so, if they were satisfied or not.

Use one of the numerous online VIN reporting services, such as CARFAX or Carco Group, Inc. as an alternate or additional background check for the vehicle. Consult the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System for more details about conducting online VIN investigations.

If a lien holder is still noted on the vehicle's registration, ask the owner for documentation showing that the loan was paid in full. Also, directly contact the lien holder, if possible, to check on the status of the lien.

About the Author

Kimberly Hurd is a high-school teacher and has been writing professionally since 1999. She mainly focuses her writing on issues related to parenting, family life, cooking and education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of Oregon and a Master of Teaching from the University of Portland.

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