How to Find a Car Owner

Written by christina riopelle
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How to Find a Car Owner
Abandoned cars often have owners. (abandoned bus image by Gina Rothfels from

Forlorn old cars that house families of raccoons may entice car enthusiasts to tow home a rescued treasure. However, just because the car corroded beyond recognition or does not run, does not guarantee abandoned status. Theft, natural disaster or owner hospitalisation or displacement can cause separation from a rightful owner. The listed owner must receive notification before destruction or relocation. For vehicles manufactured in the 1950s or later, a VIN, or vehicle identification number, aids in the search.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Find the Vehicle Identification Number. Look on the passenger's side of the dashboard nearest to the windshield. If rust obscures it, check the inside edge of the door. Some parts also bear the VIN. Write the number down carefully. Since the VIN consists of letters and numbers, print it in block letters to avoid errors. You will not remember if you scribbled down a "5" or an "S" later.

    How to Find a Car Owner
    Write down the VIN number. (writing image by Anna Chelnokova from
  2. 2

    Determine if your intent to contact the owner is permissible. Individuals may use title information for research purposes, but may not use motor vehicle records for solicitation. An owner may construe an offer of purchase as unwanted solicitation.

    How to Find a Car Owner
    A purchase offer could be unwanted solicitation. (Businesswoman working using phone image by Monika 3 Steps Ahead from
  3. 3

    Stand in line at the local Department of Motor Vehicles or Secretary of States Office. The agency varies by state. Present the VIN to request an abstract record. The agency issues an abstract omitting the owner's contact address unless the requestor demonstrates permissible use.

    How to Find a Car Owner
    Wait in line at the DMV for records. (vertical waiting at airport image by jimcox40 from
  4. 4

    Contact local authorities. According to the Drivers Protection Act, allowable contact includes "For use in providing notice to the owners of towed or impounded vehicles." Law enforcement also uses records in the course of investigations and to notify owner of recovered property. The process does not result in a vehicle purchase, but the rightful owner finds their car.

    How to Find a Car Owner
    Local authorities locate the owner. (Police image by Zeno from

Tips and warnings

  • Vehicle Identification Numbers debuted in the mid-1950s. Cars manufactured prior to that do not have VINs.

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