How to Find a Lien Holder of a Vehicle by the VIN

by Brooke Pierce

A lien holder to a car is an individual or organization that shares ownership or title of the vehicle, until such a time when the financing commitment has been fully paid. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act explains the rules for anyone who wishes to acquire vehicle-ownership reports through the vehicle identification number from a state motor vehicles office. A person wishing to access the report must be accompanied by the owner of the vehicle, have a court order to view the report or possess written permission from the owner. Following a few simple steps will enable you to find a lien holder to a car by the VIN.

Obtain the Vehicle Documents

Request the car’s documentation from the individual who is selling it to you. The documents include the car title and registration. Examine the documents for the existence of a lien. Identify the paid and unpaid liens. Inquire for proof of removal or payment of the lien if it existed.


Ascertain that the documents you are viewing are for the present year. The registration is renewed often. Be wary of the sale if the papers cannot be provided.

Check the VIN

Even though the seller will provide you with the VIN, check for yourself. It is usually located inside the car near the driver's side by the door or dashboard.

Check the Vehicle History Report

You can do this in two ways. Visit the DMV website, as a majority of states offer vehicle history reports online. You can find also reports, such as the car lemon report, at websites like You may need to sign up for an account and may be charged a fee. It normally costs between $10 to $100, depending on your state. The second way is to locate a DMV office. Have a written permission document from the owner or accompany the owner of the car to the DMV office. The office does not issue vehicle ownership reports to any individual apart from the owner.


  • Call in advance to inquire if the local motor vehicles office issues vehicle ownership reports on the basis of the VIN. 
  • The written permission document should contain the owner's name and address, vehicle identification number and clear and written permission to the DMV office to issue a vehicle ownership report.  
  • Check if there is a fee to obtain the vehicle ownership report.  

Read the Report

Examine the report to identify whether the car you want to buy has a lien. Also, check how many people own it. Note the car’s registration history. If no lien exists, everything checks out and you are satisfied with the car, you can purchase it.

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