How to Locate a Vehicle That You Previously Owned

by Brooke Pierce

You may want to know what happened to your old car or where it is located. Or, you might want to buy it back. Before starting to trace it, have the vehicle identification number and a clear photo of your old car handy. You may have heard of a service known as reverse VIN lookup, but websites that offer this service often provide inaccurate information. Know that if you are not the owner of the car, you are not permitted to acquire the car's information unless you have written permission from the current owner or the current owner accompanies you to the motor vehicles agency.

Locate Your Old Car VIN

If you did not jot down your VIN when you owned the car, you likely have kept your registration and insurance cards for your old car. Check for your VIN on those documents. If you no longer have them, check at the auto mechanic shop where you took your car for repairs. These businesses keep records of the cars they work on, including the VIN.


Most states have a policy that bars you from accessing information from the motor vehicles agency concerning a vehicle that you do not own. Instead, check The Lost Car Registry website. The site provides information about when and how you can legally access information about a car you don't own.

Appeal to People Directly

Create a simple and short advertisement. Include your old car's model, make, VIN, color, engine details, transmission and other notable features -- such as whether it has a vinyl top or spoilers. Note in the ad that you are seeking information from the current owner or anyone who might have spotted the car. Include the name of the individual you sold the car to, his state and city -- if you know it -- and the state and city you resided in when you owned the car. Most importantly, include your contact information. Post the ad online, in magazines or in a newspaper.

Trace the Person You Sold the Car To

If you still have the contact of the person you sold your old car to, call her to try to determine the path the car took after you sold it. If you do not have the buyer's number, try to trace her through the telephone directory or use the method you used when you sold her the car, such as email or social media. You can also post your request on your social media account. For a fee, some firms offer online lookup services, which may help you find a person you are trying to contact.

Use Car-Check Websites

Create profiles in websites like Check My Ride and The Lost Car Registry. List your old car and provide all of information describing your car as well as a photo including your contact information.

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