How to find vehicle owner history in U.S.A.

Written by meg mulvaney
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How to find vehicle owner history in U.S.A.
Many websites offer history reports by running the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) through a database. (Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Are you curious about your vehicle's previous owners? If you have privately purchased a vehicle, it will be easier to find out the names of your vehicle's previous owners than if you purchased the vehicle through a car dealer. If you are unable to find the names, vehicle history reports are useful in determining the state of your vehicle. If you are privately selling a vehicle, you may have more luck selling it if you provide a history report to prospective buyers. Many websites offer history reports by running the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) through a database.

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Things you need

  • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

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  1. 1

    When you purchase a vehicle privately, the previous owner's name appears on the title. That is the simplest way to find out a vehicle's owner history. In many cases, it may also be the only way. You can also obtain information about previous owners by asking the person who sold you the vehicle. However, if you bought the vehicle from a dealership, they may be unable to disclose the name of the previous owners. However, they may be permitted to provide you with a generic driving record.

  2. 2

    Locate the VIN. Usually the VIN is written on the title, insurance policy paperwork and registration. You can also find the VIN on the vehicle itself. Look at the driver's side door post, where the door closes, or the dashboard on the driver's side, and you should see a series of numbers and letters. Each vehicle has a unique VIN.

  3. 3

    Visit a website such as, or to obtain a vehicle history report. The databases will run the VIN to access the car's history. These reports will tell you how many owners your vehicle has had, but you will not be able to find their names. The reports can also help you determine if your car is a lemon, has been in an accident or if it was used as a commercial vehicle.

  4. 4

    Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles and ask for information about the previous owners. For example, according to the New York State DMV's website, the names of previous vehicle owners are protected under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act. However, in accordance with this federal code, with permissible use you can request a driver abstract, which contains an individual's driving record, such as accidents, suspensions and license class.

  5. 5

    Determine if your situation constitutes permissible use according to the DMV's standards. Examples of permissible use would be if the situation relates to driver or car safety, emissions, recalls and theft. If you are unsure as to whether you have permissible use or not, ask a DMV representative for assistance.

Tips and warnings

  • The websites that offer vehicle history reports often charge a fee. The fee varies by how in-depth of a report you desire.

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