How to Do a Vehicle Title Search

woman with car and computer

If you're wondering about the history of a car or truck, a vehicle title search can help put your mind at rest or steer you away from a potentially problematic vehicle. Knowing how to perform a title search is especially important if you preparing to buy a used car.

How to Search a Car's Title History

There are several Internet sites that specialize in vehicle title histories, and this is usually the easiest way to find out about a car. The following steps can help you navigate the process.

1. Gather Information About the Vehicle

Before you can begin your search, you'll need some basic information about the car or truck you're researching. At minimum, this will include the following:

  • Brand or "make" of car
  • Model name
  • Model year
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

2. Have a Payment Method Handy

Unfortunately, performing a title search isn't free. Most sites require a fee of between $30 and $50 and will accept major credit cards. To make the process go more smoothly, have your credit card handy.

3. Decide on a Search Service

There are several options for title searches, but CARFAX and AutoCheck are among the most popular with consumers. Each is very reliable.

  • CARFAX - Perhaps the most widely used source of vehicle history reports, CARFAX issues reports that include a great deal of information about a vehicle. You'll find how many owners the vehicle has had, whether the odometer reading is correct, if the car has had any major accidents or been involved in a natural disaster, whether it was a rental car or part of a vehicle fleet, and lots of other important information. Reports typically cost between $30 and $50.
  • AutoCheck - A part of Experian, one of the three main credit bureaus in the United States, AutoCheck tracks the history of a vehicle through incidents attached to the title. You'll learn whether the car has a salvage title, if it has been involved in a fire, flood, or accident, and what the odometer reading has been in the past. You'll also find out about any previous use as a fleet car, police car, taxi, or rental car and whether the vehicle has been declared a lemon. Expect to pay between $30 and $60 for a report.

4. Run the Report

After you've decided on a company, input the information about the car and enter your payment details. Then run the report. In most cases, you should receive instant results.

5. Compare the Report to the Vehicle

Finally, don't forget to compare the results of your title search to the vehicle in question. If you notice difference in the odometer reading, the make or model, the reported condition, or any other significant factors, it may be a sign of a scam.

Reasons to Perform a Vehicle Title Search

Since a car's title includes so much information about its history, it can be a useful resource for potential owners. If you're considering buying a used vehicle, researching the title can give you peace of mind. Here are some of the reasons you may want to perform a title search:

  • The title history will show whether an automobile has had the odometer rolled back.
  • You can learn about major accidents in the car's history.
  • The title history will provide information about how many times a car has been sold.
  • You can determine the exact age of the vehicle.

Take Your Time

The process of running a title search is quite simple, but it's important to take your time to make sure all the details are correct. Regardless of which company you choose to perform a vehicle title search, you will feel better knowing some facts about the history of your new car or truck.

How to Do a Vehicle Title Search