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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33 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. 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

  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

Author: SQAdmin
Last Updated: October 17, 2019

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