How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search

People Phone License Plate VIN
People Phone License Plate VIN

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 SearchQuarry.com 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.


Vehicle Title - Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Can I buy a vehicle without a title?

Yes, you can purchase a vehicle without a vehicle title. You will want to make sure you get a bill of sale and evidence that the vehicle is paid off before purchasing this vehicle or it will be difficult to obtain a duplicate title. It's best practice to contact your local DMV directly before purchasing a used vehicle without a title before you complete the transaction.

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Responses to “How to Perform a Vehicle Title Search

  1. If the title of the car has a business name and the guy that is selling it to me is not is not the same as the one on title, should I trust it?

    1. It’s prudent to be skeptical when purchasing a used vehicle, especially if the title owner information does not match. There are a couple of options for you, the first is to contact the DMV directly about the title discrepancy. Another good option to make sure the vehicle has not been reported stolen is to use the free government resource NICB.org which is the National Insurance Crime Bureau website where you can run a VIN lookup.

      How To Determine If A Vehicle Was Stolen

      You can quickly search to find out if a vehicle is stolen by entering the VIN number into the National Insurance Crime Bureau webiste, NICB.org. This is a free VIN search service to assist you with out if a vehicle has been stolen and any reported accidents

  2. Im Stationed in Korea and brought a us spec car from a Korean Dealer and want to ship it to the states but I need the title. I have the Bill of Sale and registration but I want to take it back with me.

    1. William, in order to obtain a title for your foreign car so that you can bring it into the United States and register it here, you will want to contact the DMV in the state you are planning on moving to. They will have a form you can fill out for an Application for Title or Registration ( i.e. REG 343 in California ). There is also a list of other documents for your vehicle that you may need that we have listed below for you.

      How to Register a Vehicle Imported From Another Country

      1. Complete an Application for Title or Registration form
      2. Proof of ownership or bill of sale
      3. Verification of Vehicle form.
      4. Lien holder release form, if applicable
      5. Vehicle Transfer form
      6. Statement of Facts form
      7. A smog and weight certificate
      8. Evidence that the vehicle has cleared customs

    1. Since Puerto Rico is a United States territory you can transfer a vehicle from Connecticut to Puerto Rico as long as you make sure you have all the required documents listed below. You will just want to confirm all the information with the Puerto Rico DMV before transferring the vehicle title and registration from Connecticut to Puerto Rico.

      Requirements To Transfer a Vehicle To Puerto Rico

      1. Have a valid Puerto Rico driver’s license
      2. Possess the vehicle title to transfer
      3. Have a valid passport and any import documents
      4. Show evidence of paying the excise tax payment
      5. Social security information and proof of residency

    1. Andrew, you can obtain a duplicate Virginia vehicle title by contacting the Virginia DMV and making this request. You can do this online, in person or by mail. See below for additional details on how to get a duplicate vehicle title.

      How to Get a Duplicate Virginia Vehicle Title

      Visit the Virginia DMV website and setup an account using your Virginia driver’s license and DOB. Then login and fill out the form VSA66 for a duplicate vehicle title and submit it online or in person. You will need to pay a nominal fee and a new vehicle title will be mailed to you in a couple weeks.

  3. I am a property manager at a senior development. One of my residents passed 3 or 4 years ago, her daughter left the car and everything at my property. I wish to take ownership of the car, how do I get the title so I can sell it? Thank you

    1. You will need to contact the owner of the vehicle, if that is the daughter now, through your local DMV. You can tell the DMV you are trying to take ownership of the abandoned vehicle and would like to track down the previous owner. The sheriff department will also be notified about the abandoned vehicle. If there is no response and you are unable to contact the previous owner then you can proceed with getting the vehicle title transferred into your name. Depending on the state you live in, this may include you going to court to claim the abandoned vehicle. The first step is to make your inquiry through the DMV

      How to Get a Title From an Abandoned Car

      1. Find out the laws in your state for abandoned vehicles
      2. Contact the DMV and report an abandoned vehicle you’d like to claim
      3. Provide the DMV with the full VIN and license plate of the vehicle
      4. The DMV will attempt to contact the previous owner & notify the sheriff department
      5. If no response then you can proceed with obtaining the title of the abandoned vehicle

    1. Thanks for reaching out Abbye. We are happy to assist you with a vehicle title inquiry. Was there a specific question about the rebuilt or salvaged vehicle title you would like to know more about?

      What Is A Rebuilt Vehicle Title?

      A rebuilt vehicle title usually means the vehicle was once salvaged. This means the vehicle probably had major repairs from some kind of accident where the auto insurance company totaled the vehicle and someone purchased the vehicle to rebuild. This will typically take away from the value of the vehicle and what it can be sold for.

    1. Obtain a Duplicate Vehicle Title By Mail

      To obtain a new title for your vehicle you will need to contact the DMV in your state and make this request. You can download the form for a Duplicate Title Request and submit it via mail or you can visit a DMV branch in person to expedite this process. Typically once the DMV has all the information needed to issue you a duplicate vehicle title, it will take a few weeks for this to be mailed to you by mail.

    1. Finding out if a vehicle title has been transferred out of your name is easy, you can contact your local DMV, in person if possible, and request to find out if the vehicle you sold has been transferred to the new owner.

      How Do I Find Out If a Vehicle Title Has Been Transferred Out Of My Name?

      Visit your local DMV in person, or over the phone, and request to find out if your name has been removed from the title and released of liability. You will need to have the VIN or license plate of your old vehicle as well as your driver’s license to make this request.

    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

  4. 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.

    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.

  5. 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.

    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

  6. 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. 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.

Author: SQAdmin
Last Updated: September 3, 2020

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