How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search

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Why a Vehicle Title Search Is Important

Cars are a necessity for many people who commute for work or use their vehicle to take children to school, run essential errands and more. Having a vehicle also opens up a host of possibilities for social activities and general freedom of movement for everyone. Buying a new car can be costly though, and for some people, it’s either out of reach or simply not worth the extra expense. That’s when most people turn to the used car market. Performing a vehicle title search can help you learn about a vehicle to ensure that you’re making a smart buy when shopping. Use this guide to learn more about vehicle title searches and how you can perform one effectively. If you don’t get the vehicle history before you buy, you could end up spending your hard-earned money on a car that simply wasn’t worth it.

Vehicle Title SearchWhy Run a Vehicle Title Search?

Running a vehicle title search can help you learn more about the history of a vehicle beyond what the owner has told you. While many sellers are completely on the up and up, some may be unscrupulous. Others may simply not know the full history of the vehicle because they were never given all of the information.

When you perform a vehicle title search, you’ll be able to find out if the vehicle has been involved in any minor or major collisions. This can impact the value of the car as well as the potential overall performance of the vehicle you’re looking at buying.

You’ll also learn whether the owner knows the true history of the car or if they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes and get you to buy at a price that’s not truly fair.

How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search

1. Obtain a limited history report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
2. Get a free VIN check through The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
3. Third-party database sites that pull vehicle history data from national databases

What is Included in a Car Title Search

  • Vehicle accident history
  • Previous owners of the car
  • Recalls related to the vehicle
  • Flood damage
  • Title checks
  • History of airbag deployment
  • Basic maintenance records
  • Odometer issues
  • Records of vandalism or theft
  • Liens against the car

What to Do if There is a Lien on the Car

Checking to see if there’s a lien against a vehicle you want to buy is one of the main reasons to perform a car title search. If you do find that there’s a lien on the vehicle, you have a few options if you still want to buy it.

  • Negotiate to pay the lien off when you buy the vehicle. This can typically be done in a safe way if the buyer and seller meet to pay off the lien in person before transferring the title. Negotiate the final sale price with what you’ll need to pay to have the lien removed in mind.
  • Have the seller pay off the lien with a good faith agreement that you will buy the car after they provide proof that the vehicle is now lien-free.
  • Use an escrow service that will hold the title to ensure that both parties do their part. This can protect a buyer who agrees to pay to have the lien removed.

Government Car Title Search

Most states do not offer complete title information even on vehicles that are registered within their jurisdiction. This information is simply too difficult to track for most states, so it’s left to other organizations.

Some states do offer registration abstracts though. These contain useful information like parking tickets that may be left on the car. Title registration abstracts can provide more information about the current owner and past owners of the vehicle.

How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search Online

3rd party vehicle title searches often provide the most information in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand package. Many third-party title services charge a small fee for records, but this is often much cheaper than buying a car that’s not worth what you paid.

Sites like are popular options for getting a VIN check. You can also obtain records this way quickly, which can be important if you’re looking to buy a used car that’s in high demand or for sale at a price that’s enticing to you as a buyer.

Getting a car title search can help you avoid buying a car that’s not worth your money. You may need to pay for a comprehensive search, but a few dollars for well-kept records can save you thousands in the long run.

What to do if I lost my vehicle title?

If you lost your vehicle title you can get a duplicate title from the DMV. Download the form to request a duplicate vehicle title and bring it into a DMV office with your driver's license. You will have to pay a nominal fee and the new vehicle title will be mailed to you in a few weeks.

Can I sell my vehicle without a title?

Yes, it is possible to sell a vehicle without a title. You will want to sign an affidavit that all the information is accurate on the vehicle you're selling and also put into writing a bill of sale for the purchaser. It's typically not best practice to sell aa vehicle without a title but it does happen and there is not always time to get a replacement vehicle title.

How to Find the Title Number on a Vehicle

Your vehicle title number is listed on the title of your vehicle as well as on your vehicle registration card. The title number is typically 8 digits and is usually located next to the other vehicle information on your registration, such as your VIN or license plate number.

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54 responses to “How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search

  1. The DMV states our title on a car purchased 5/7/18 was sent. We haven’t received though dealer said it was sent 9/24/18. Vehicle PIN number is 2T1BPRHE2HC8333180.

    1. Thanks for reaching out about How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search. We are happy to assist you with a vehicle history report but those are not free. The other option is to contact the DMV directly and inquire about getting a duplicate title in case your title was lost in the mail or something happened to it. Below are some useful links for your convenience to further assist you in performing a vehicle title search.

      Click Here to Run a Vehicle History Report
      Click Here to Find a DMV Near You

      How to Get a Duplicate Car Title

      1. Contact your local DMV in your state
      2. Fill out a form for a duplicate car title
      3. Show a photo ID and pay the relevant fee
      4. Obtain a duplicate title by mail in a few weeks

    1. Robert, if you’re trying to find out about the status of a vehicle title then you’ll want to reach out to the relevant state DMV directly. They can offer such information, we are not affiliated with the DMV so you’ll have to do this over the phone, online or in person. Visiting them in person is typically the quickest means of getting an answer about the status of a vehicle title.

      How to Find the Status of a Vehicle Title

      Contact the DMV directly and request the status of a vehicle title. You will need to have the VIN and/or license plate number of the vehicle. The vehicle status check will show the last date the title was changed or the vehicle was sold.

    1. In order to find out the status of your vehicle title you will need to contact the DMV directly since they are the issuing state agency that controls vehicle registration and driver licensing. You will need the vehicle identification number and your driver’s license to obtain this information

      How to Find the Status of a Vehicle Title

      Contact the DMV directly and have your vehicle VIN and driver’s license available for verification and they will let you know the date of issuance. Titles that are sent via mail may take a couple weeks to be received

      1. I was almost scammed by a seller that sent me a fake Ok vehicle title and I have not been able to verify the vin that he sent me. The pictures he sent were very believable but I was uneasy about doing a bank wire transfer without knowing this was a honest car sale. I started researching and found all the red flags of a fraud. I would like to know if this vehicle belongs to someone else as did the house at the address that he gave. If he is trying to sell a car that is not his to sell, shouldn’t there be a way to notify that owner?

        1. Gotcha, it certainly sounds like there is a potential scam here. There are several Craigslist stories like the one you have shared about people getting scammed in purchasing a vehicle. Below we have included a link to common scams, including car buying scams. It is very informative.

          Most Common Craigslist Scams

          1. This was on ebay. They have investigated and informed me that the account had been used by a 3rd party. They removed the ad and since I had not sent any money, the sale was just cancelled. So this guy had gotten into someone elses account and offered a vehicle for sale. The vin doesnt come up , so guess he just got a vin off another vehicle or something. This is terrible and really hurts the auction as I will be scared to use it unless, it was close to my location.

          2. Thank you for sharing Ann. Hopefully the information you have shared will help other people avoid these types of scams. Please reach out in the future if you have any questions or concerns about vehicle records or public records, we are here to help.

    1. You can start by using our free VIN Decoder and see what information is available for your BMW first. Depending on what you’re looking for we also offer a vehicle history report for an additional fee which will give you the simple history of your vehicle, as described in our “How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search” blog post. If you have any specific questions please reach out.

  2. I have an abandoned car in mt driveway that my daughter left. She is missing and there are police reports that prove my daughter is missing. The vehicle has no plates and title missing. Please tell me what to do…

    1. Denise, there should be a VIN, or vehicle identification number, located in a few places. The dashboard, the driver side door and the engine. You can supply this to the police or the impound yard if you decide to have the vehicle towed.

      Typically what you are allowed to do if a vehicle is abandoned on your property is to have an impound yard tow the vehicle off your property. We hope this helps

  3. How do I get a title for a vehicle when the owner didn’t have one and the person he bought off of didn’t have one vehicle

    1. Typically, depending on the state you live in, if you purchase a used car without a vehicle title then you may not legally own the vehicle. You should do your best effort to obtain as much information as possible, such as a bill of sale, and you may need to fill out a DMV Affidavit for a Car TitleDMV Affidavit for a Car TitleDMV Affidavit for a Car Title when registering the vehicle with the DMV.

      How to Buy a Vehicle Without a Title

      1. Obtain a Bill of Sale of the Vehicle
      2. Fill the DMV Affidavit for Vehicle Title
      3. Fill out an Application for Duplicate Title
      4. Pay the Relevant Fee for a Duplicate Title
      5. Receive your Vehicle Title by mail

  4. I want to fine the original title and owner of my 1966 Buick Rivera GS vin 494876H951277
    I have a clean title but want to know where the car came from and who owned it originally.

    1. Find the Original Title on a Vintage Vehicle

      To find the original title of a vintage vehicle, that is at least 20 years old, you will want to have the current title with the license plate number and VIN and inquire with the DMV in your state. This is not always possible but depending on the reason for your vehicle title request, they may be able to assist you with looking up the original information based on the VIN of the vehicle

      1. I need a replacement titlle for a 1996 Cataeallac Fleetwood Brougham De’edegance. Vin1G6DW52P9TR707432. Original Owner was Harry L Schaffer

        1. Roger, in order to get a duplicate title for your Cadillac Fleetwood, you will need to contact the DMV directly. You can visit their website and download the form for a duplicate title and bring it in to your closest DMV location. There will be a nominal fee and they will mail you the new title in a few weeks

  5. I need to find out who the owner of the car was previous to the person who sold it to me. I am trying to determine if the timing belt was changed before I spend $1200 to get it done. Would a title search provide that info? I have the actual title number for that particular owner.

    1. To find this information you will want to contact the DMV directly about this. Depending on the nature of your request they might be able to assist you but it depends on the DPPA requirements of the state you live in. Because you are concerned about the safety of your vehicle and are questioning if the vehicle timing belt was changed you might also want to inquire with a mechanic and see if they can determine if any work has been done on your vehicle.

  6. NICB I. NEED HELP I Losts My TITLE’S For 1987 Volvo 740 GL Sedan I NEED DUPLICATE TITLE’S what the praise will be cost let’s me now thank YOU very much constantine popescu Albuquerque new Mexico 87107

    1. To obtain a duplicate title for you New Mexico vehicle you will want to reach out to the New Mexico MVD and make your request in person. See below for more detailed instructions.

      How to Obtain a Duplicate New Mexico Vehicle Title

      1. Visit the New Mexico MVD Office in Person
      2. Fill out Form MVD-10901 for a Duplicate Title
      3. Submit your Form to an MVD field Office
      4. Show Your Driver’s License and Pay the Fee
      5. Receive your Duplicate Vehicle Title by Mail

  7. I\’m looking to buy a vehicle from a seller with no title and no lien release although he claims the lender sent the release but he never filed it of record. How can I verify the information, identify the lender and get a certified copy of the release.

    1. It would be best practice to have the seller request a duplicate title for the vehicle before making the purchase. However, this may take several weeks before a duplicate vehicle title is received by the current owner. Another option would be to present a bill of sale for the vehicle to the DMV and request a duplicate title under your name. Before you do that you might consider going to the DMV to verify the ownership of the vehicle and if the bank still owns the vehicle or if has been paid off

    1. Gene, you will want to reach out to the DMV office where you submitted your vehicle title payment and documentation and inquire about the status of your vehicle title. It is possible that since vehicle titles are sent by mail that this could have been lost. That being said, you will need to request to get a duplicate title from your state Motor Vehicle Department. This request can typically be made online however if you visit the DMV in person it might expedite finding out the status of your vehicle title.

      My Vehicle Title Has Not Arrived

      If your vehicle has not arrived it’s time to contact your DMV office. You can call them or visit them in person, which is sometimes faster, to find out the status of your vehicle title. If the vehicle title was mailed to you and lost then a duplicate title request must be made.

  8. Hi my name is Linda L. Harris I brought a truck from someone the lived in PA.. but move to Connecticut and the move away to Florida. The person that owned the vehicle lives in PA. The title is still in the Ladies name . I signed the tittle and received a temp plate in Connecticut because I needed the truck to pass an emissions test and it did. Some how when I went back to The Motor Vehicle Department I lost my paperwork and titles to truck. The department has copies of the paper work but the title needs to be the original title . What do I need to do to get. The title back. The truck is temporarily registered in my name ?

    1. Linda, since you are looking to get a duplicate vehicle title for this truck you purchased in Pennsylvania, you will want to reach out to the Pennsylvania DMV directly about this and explain the situation. It’s possible you might need to get a duplicate title issued first but since you’re now a resident of another state it’s uncertain what this process will be. You can visit the PA DMV website or contact the PA DMV directly @ 800-932-4600

      How to Get a Duplicate Vehicle Title From Another State

      1. Download and complete the duplicate title form from your DMV
      2. Present the duplicate vehicle title form to the DMV
      3. Provide proof of ID and pay the duplicate title fee
      4. Receive the duplicate vehicle title via mail

    1. Judith, thanks for reaching out about our, ” How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search ,” blog. Unfortunately since this is a trailer and not a car, truck, suv or motorcycle we don’t have any records to assist you. Your best option in finding out who’s name is on the trailer is to contact your local DMV. They can assist you with looking up who is on the title of your trailer.

      How to Find Out Who Owns a Trailer

      1. Visit the DMV office in person
      2. Request to perform a trailer title search
      3. Fill out the required request form
      4. Show proper identification
      5. Find out who owns a trailer

  9. I sold a car Nissan 300ZX title has not been changed over and I\’m trying to find out if they\’ve been another title pulled for this car if so is the legally been done because I was still owed money on the vehicle

    1. Shannon, in order to check the current vehicle title status on the car you’ve sold, you will want to contact your local DMV. They will be able to tell you what the current vehicle title status is and if it’s been changed or if the vehicle title is still under your name. Another thing to consider is if you have filed the release of liability on the vehicle you’ve sold. That way you alleviate any personal responsibility if there is a situation with the Nissan 300ZX where you might be liable if the title has not been changed yet. In any case, it’s best practice to contact the DMV directly about vehicle title discrepancies.

      How to Check the Status of a Vehicle Title

      To check the status of a vehicle title you should contact the DMV directly. They will be able to tell you if there is a discrepancy or an issue with the title status of a vehicle. A title transfer can cause discrepancies if the change of ownership was not properly filed or potentially lost in the mail. It’s best practice to discuss this matter directly with the DMV to avoid any confusion.

  10. This is a title on a 1972 Triumph Tiger 650 that I bot in 1994. It did not run so I tore it down and completely redid the whole bike. I now have it sold and am having trouble with the old California title.. I live in Omaha, NE and finished the bike in Chicago where my son lives. It is now sold to an individual in Oklahoma. Help

    1. If you are having issues with transferring the title of your Triumph motorcycle that was originally registered in California then you will want to reach out to the California DMV directly and inquire what discrepancies need to be fixed. Unfortunately we cannot assist you directly with your vehicle title request because we are not directly affiliated with the California DMV. Their phone number is 800-777-0133

  11. im filing for a new title from mississippi where the truck was registered i have since moved to florida and do not have the title , the document i was given to fill out to get a new title is asking me for the title number (which i do not have and can not seem to find) should i just leave that part blank? how do i get this information ?

    1. Your vehicle title number can also be found on your vehicle registration card. This will be an 8 digit number located next to the VIN on your registration. If you cannot find the title number or if it’s not on your registration card, and you have the VIN and license plate number you might be fine. If you do not have a vehicle title number then you can leave it blank, or you can try and contact the DMV via phone to inquire what is best practice. The phone number for the Mississippi DMV is 601-582-3814

  12. In order to obtain a copy of your original vehicle title you will need to reach out to the DMV. You can visit your state’s DMV website and download the form to get a duplicate copy of your title, fill it out and bring it into a DMV office. A duplicate title will then be mailed to you in a few weeks.

    1. A passport is a certified government ID so you should be able to use that to request a duplicate vehicle title from the DMV.

      How Can I Correct a Misspelling on My Vehicle Title?

      Submit your vehicle title with the correct name written about the misspelling. Also submit a Statement of Facts form describing why you need to make this change. You can submit these documents in person to the DMV or mail them in. Processing by mail may take several weeks to get your corrected vehicle title.

    1. Delia, are you looking to get a duplicate vehicle title or are you waiting for the DMV to send you a vehicle title?

      Checkout our Free DMV Finder and give your local DMV a call to followup on the status of your vehicle title or registration

  13. I bought a 60 year old car that had been abandoned on someone,s property. In Texas, I bought the car from the owner of the property what do I need to do to get a Texas Title in my name? The car isn\’t stolen doesn\’t run.

  14. I bought a 60 year old car that had been abandoned on someone,s property. In Texas, I bought the car from the owner of the property what do I need to do to get a Texas Title in my name? The car isn\’t stolen doesn\’t run. The VIN VC57S14658

    1. Rex, in order to change the vehicle title and registration on that abandoned vehicle you will want to contact the Texas DPS directly and request to have the vehicle title transferred into your name. Since you don’t have the title or know the owner of the vehicle you will need to discuss your options with the Texas DPS. You might have to sign an affidavit to confirm that the vehicle was found abandoned and you couldn’t reach or contact the previous owner.

      How To Change The Title on an Abandoned Vehicle

      Visit your DMV and request a title search on the abandoned vehicle. You can then try and contact the owner of the vehicle. If you cannot contact the owner and discover there are no liens or claims on the title you can request to have the title signed over to you. You might be required to sign an affidavit that the vehicle was abandoned and you did your best effort to contact the owner. Then you can have the DMV transfer the title over to your name for a nominal fee.

  15. Hello, I want to obtain a Title to a 1972 Honda Motorcycle that has never had a Title. How do I do this, kind regards, Bruce

    1. Does the motorcycle have a VIN? If not then it might not be possible to obtain a title for this motorcycle. In any case this is a question best answered by the DMV directly. They will be able to direct you in the process of obtaining a title for a motorcycle that has never had a title, as long as it has a vehicle identification number attached to it.

  16. My original bill of sales and title were lost for a car I bought, it’s a 1972 which makes it a classic (VIN is not coming up) I have since lost contact with owner, the car was from GA, and I live in LA what can I do to get a legal title and registration

    1. You will want to reach out to your the Louisiana DMV directly and inquire how to transfer a title from a vehicle that you purchased from another state. You may need to get the previous owner’s information from the Louisiana DMV and request to have a duplicate title sent out but if that is not possible then the DMV might have you sign an affidavit that you purchased this vehicle legitimately and lost the title that was to be transferred. You should also bring in any other documentation on the vehicle including the bill of sale.

    1. Albert, to get a copy of your motorcycle title you will want to reach out to the DMV in your state and make a request for a new title. You can download the duplicate title form and either mail it in or hand it in person. If you decide to mail it in the DMV will sometimes only send the title to the address on the title and/or registration.

      How To Get a Duplicate Motorcycle Title

      1. Visit your state DMV website
      2. Download the form for a duplicate motorcycle title
      3. Fill out the form and mail it or hand it in person
      4. Show proof of identification & pay the required fee
      5. Processing by mail may take a few weeks

  17. Hi, I am in the UK and the owner or a 1960 VW Beetle Convertible that was purchased in 2011 from Mrs. Lorraine P Fisher who lived at the time at 6740 W Home Avenue, Worth, Illinois 60482-2308 I have a copy of the Certificate of Title from the moment of sale. I am completing a full restoration of the car but would like to know more about its history as I will keep it for a long time. I understand that Lorraine’s father Julius E Fischer was the second owner and bought it from his friend and colleague in the early 1970s who had owned it from new. They both worked on the railroads and played golf at Purdue University.

    The car was originally delivered to Import Motors Inc based in Grand Rapids in April 1960. The Vehicle Identification number is 3009165 and the title number at the time of sale in 2011 (11/23/11) was X1327760036

    If you have an archive department I would love to know more about my car and its history and would be happy to share photographs of it as found in 2011 and now. Any help would be greatly appreciated, Thank you. Chris Grocott

    1. Chris, thank you for your inquiry about your classic VW Beetle. Unfortunately this is a vintage vehicle that we do not have in our vehicle record database. Our VIN and vehicle records can only lookup more modern vehicle with 17 digit VINs. It can be difficult to find the entire vehicle history of a classic vehicle. You might consider reaching out to the DMV in Grand Rapids to inquire about more details about your classic VW car.

Author: SQAdmin
Last Updated: October 17, 2019

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