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How Do You Find the Registered Owner of a Vehicle?

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Quick Answer

In order to track down the registered owner of a vehicle, a person needs the vehicles Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the license plate number. The information is available through the DMV or Carfax report.

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How Do You Find the Registered Owner of a Vehicle?
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Full Answer

When someone purchases a vehicle, he or she receives the vehicle's title or pink slip. This legal document proves the person owns the vehicle, but it is different from the registration. After purchasing the vehicle, the owner must register the vehicle with the appropriate division (usually the Department of Motor Vehicles) within their state. The registration establishes a link between the owner and the car. It also shows that the owner has paid all of the required taxes on the vehicle and it has passed required state inspections deeming it roadworthy. The information about who registered the vehicle is available on a Carfax report or through the local DMV if a person has the VIN and license plate numbers.

Difference Between VIN and License Plate Numbers
When a vehicle is registered the driver receives a license plate that must be display on the back and sometimes the front of the vehicle. This license plate number typically changes when the car is sold and someone else registers the vehicle. The VIN is an identification number that never changes and always stays with the car. Automakers assign a VIN, which is a 17-digit combination of numbers and letters, during vehicle's production. The VIN is unique to the vehicle and is used to definitively identify it. This number is located in several places on the vehicle, including beneath the windshield, in the engine bay and on the driver's side door jamb.

What Is Carfax?
Carfax is a private company that operates separately from government agencies and maintains detailed information about vehicles in the United States and Canada. The company began in 1984 and its databases quickly grew in the years that followed. Carfax obtains all of its information from reliable sources, including the DMV, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies and more. When someone requests a Carfax report, the company passes on all information they have collected.

What Does a Carfax Report Contain?
The Carfax report provides the purchaser with the entire owner history of the vehicle. This way the owner can see how many times the vehicle has been purchased and sold, as well as in what states. Other information in the Carfax report includes such information as previous accidents and damage, issues with titling, maintenance records and warranty information.

Request for Information from the DMV
Carfax reports and other private organizations usually charge a fee to receive their information. Some information about a vehicle is in the public record and available directly from the DMV. Because each state has different laws and runs the agencies differently, the process for obtaining information and the information available on the public record varies. For example, in the state of California, people can request vehicle registration information by completing the Request for Information (INF 70) form, according the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. In addition to the form, those requesting the information must provide the vehicle's license plate number or VIN.

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