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How to Find Vehicle Title Owner Information

by David Petris

According to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a vehicle's title shows more than proof of ownership. It can indicate if the vehicle has been or is in a condition like "junk," "salvage" or "flooded." These different vehicle titles can impact the price, or even determine whether the vehicle is legal to be on the road. Before you make an expensive or even illegal mistake, make sure you find out a vehicle's title information. It's not very difficult to find if you take the right information to the right source.

Find the vehicle's VIN (vehicle identification number). This is a unique code consisting of 17 characters. The VIN for almost all vehicles can be found by looking at the bottom corner of the windshield, on the driver's side, from outside the vehicle. It will be engraved on a small metal plate. If you cannot find the VIN in this location, try looking in the door jambs of the vehicle, typically on the driver's side, also engraved on a metal plate. If still no luck, try the glove box or trunk of the car. If you are still unable to find the find the VIN, or want to skip the possibility of looking in a few locations, you can try doing an Internet search for where the VIN is located. Search using the vehicle's year, model and make as it may change from year to year.

Enter the VIN into a search box on websites such as CARFAX or AutoCheck (see Resources). Both of these websites offer a free VIN check to first see if the VIN is in the database, and how many records are on file for that number. If you find the VIN, you will have to make a payment to the chosen company to view the records. Be aware that there is no guarantee the records provided will have title information. In many cases they will, and while costing a bit of money, it is a great time saver.

Contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Have the vehicle's VIN, make, model and year, and if available license plate number, on hand. Explain why you are seeking the vehicle's title information and let them know what information you have gathered. From this point on, depending on your state's laws, the next steps may change. The DMV may be able to give the information out over the phone, or may require you to submit the request in writing or by filling out a form or two. The title information should be yours soon once you navigate through your state's requirements for obtaining the information.

Call your local law enforcement agency if you are trying to find out title information so you can have an abandoned vehicle removed from your property. They should be able to assist in this situation. If you're trying to find title information for any other reason, avoid using this method.

Tips

  • Even if it's difficult to find, make sure you have the vehicle's VIN before trying to obtain any information. This is the most important piece of the puzzle in finding title information. The year, make, model and license plate information are not necessary but may be helpful in your search.
  • When you contact the DMV start with a phone call to avoid long lines.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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