How do I pull a title check on a car?

When you find a car you want to buy, don’t put down a deposit until you have done a title check. To pull a title check on a car all you have to do is ask the owner or vendor to show you the title. If you’re unsure if the title is legitimate, you can check a car’s title at the DMV or by the vehicle’s VIN. Read our guide to learn more so you don’t end up buying a lemon.

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UPDATED: Oct 30, 2020

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Written By: Tonya SislerReviewed By: Brad LarsenUPDATED: Oct 30, 2020Fact Checked

Buying a new car is always exciting, especially one you have worked so hard for or one you always dreamed of having. However, it’s important to know the proper steps before buying one such as thoroughly test driving it, having a professional check its condition and researching its driver’s history, especially if it’s a later model.

Many people are in the business of stealing cars and selling them for high prices, so it’s important to protect yourself from getting scammed. When you find a car you are interested in purchasing, don’t put down a deposit on the car until you have done a title check.

Although cars in a car dealership or used car lot may seem “safe” they are often times, not. Here’s what to do when determining if a car is a legit purchase and how to prevent a scam from taking place.

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Don’t Be Shy

Purchasing a lemon is one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to you, however it is more common than you may realize. No matter how trustworthy the dealer, friend or co-worker may seem, you should ask to see the title before moving any further with purchasing the vehicle.

Every vehicle when paid off will have a title and if it doesn’t there is something wrong. Ask for the title up front, and if you are unsure whether it is at legit title or not, take it to someone who knows, such as your mechanic or a state office.

A car’s title can be checked from an official certificate that is only provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles. This title form should contain the VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number) which must match up with the VIN number on the car’s license plate or dashboard.

Don’t feel ashamed when asking for the title and always take the time to double check that the VIN numbers match, and that the certificate hasn’t been plagiarized.

Using Your Resources

It’s also important to check the car’s condition with a mechanic. While looking over your potential car, the mechanic can not only check out the major components of the vehicle such as the engine, transmission, alignment, etc but also take a look at the mileage which is a good indicator of how long and how much value the car has left.

Having an unbiased opinion as well as a knowledgeable one, a mechanic can help you to assess whether the car will be a good investment or not. You can go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and purchase a report of the vehicle’s activity such as past owners, and there are websites that allow you to enter the vehicle’s VIN to check the status.

If it was a stolen vehicle for example, a website can notify you of this which can be tremendously helpful when it comes to understanding the legitimacy of the car. Checking the VIN number can also notify you of potential problems such as fire damage, engine repair damage or other factors that can help you to think twice about your future purchase.

Be Mindful of the Risks Involved

There are other ways to check the legitimacy of your car. For example, some companies offer a way online to get a free car title check simply by entering some basic information about the car while others charge a small fee to perform a title check.

When looking at a car, always tell the owner you would like a day or two to think about it, and write down the VIN number as well as the make and model of the vehicle. Doing so will help you to identify the car and research a thorough past including occurrences such as lemon history, flood damage occurrences, prior use and any reported repairs made to the vehicle.

For example, was it leased, used as a public transportation vehicle such as a taxi or used as a rental? By comparing these reports with several car history checks, you can have the peace of mind that the car you purchase or refused contained the right information for your knowledge.

Everyone is susceptible to getting a raw deal on a car and the chances that you can be swindled buying any vehicle is possible. Although it’s tempting to purchase a car on the spot always be careful, as there are always people looking for the right opportunity to sell their lemon and it’s important to protect yourself as much as you can.

When checking for the title, you are becoming more knowledgeable then they hope you will be and you’ll be saving yourself money and a headache in the long run.

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Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about car insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything car insurance-related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by car insurance experts.

Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Written by Tonya Sisler
Insurance Writer Tonya Sisler

Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Brad Larsen

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