How to find the previous owners of a car

Written by diana braun | 13/05/2017

When shopping for a used car, it's important to do your research so that you don't end up with a lemon. Knowing who the previous owners of a car are may be beneficial in obtaining maintenance records. The number of previous owners may also indicate a troublesome vehicle. If the car experiences any problems that were related to prior ownership, it may be necessary to contact previous owners.

Locate the title to the car. If you purchased the car from a private seller, the name of the previous owner is often on the title. If the name isn't specified on the title, ask the seller of the car if he has a record of or knows who the previous owners were. If the car was purchased from a dealership, it is often unable to disclose the names of previous owners.

Locate the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VIN can be found in several places, including inside the driver's-side door frame, on the dashboard of the driver's side and on the title, registration or insurance policy.

Visit a website that specialises in car history reports, such as, or For a fee, these websites will use the VIN to run a history report check showing how many previous owners the car had and any major or minor accidents the car has been in. The car history report will not give specific names of owners.

Contact your local department of motor vehicles or other agency regulating motor vehicles. Most states protect the previous owner's names and personal data. If the car has known safety issues or is involved in a court case, disclosing previous owners names may be determined permissible.

Things you need

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Contact info for department of motor vehicles or relevant agency

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