Finding the Prior Vehicle Owner

Finding the Prior Vehicle Owner

When a vehicle is sold at auction, the title provided by the consignor is often in the name of the last titled owner. Neither the buyer, the auction, the consigning dealer, or even the original trade-in dealer can apply for a duplicate title since the title record is still in the name of the prior registered owner. We complete the steps outlined below to find the vehicle’s prior owner and prepare all documentation to transfer the title into your name.

Did you know:

  • Your dealership can not apply for a duplicate title.

  • The auction can not apply for a duplicate title.

  • The selling dealer can not apply for a duplicate title.

  • Only the last titled owner can sign the title documents.

Or call: 256-448-4853

Find Prior Vehicle Owner Process

Additional Information

We also include a customer service contact if the lien holder would like to ask questions about the process. We will provide your direct contact info to them in case they would like to send you the title forms directly. We include a pre-addressed and postage paid return envelope to send back any forms or title documents, to make it convenient.

While we are not allowed by law to release the private information about the prior owner or lien holder to any third parties, and they are not required to take any any action with the title, we have found that this method has the best response rate. Most financial institutions are not able to accept verbal requests by phone for lien information. By sending a request in the mail, it allows the lien holder to get the file to the correct department for processing.

We will send you updates when the letter is sent, and when it is received by the lien holder. We also update you if they contact us with any questions. They may also contact you directly, as well.

We can get you a title for ANY type of vehicle!

More Than 2,000,000 Titles Processed

Contacting Prior Owner

The process for this scenario is to contact two or three parties to obtain the necessary documentation. The last registered owner is able to obtain a duplicate upon their written request. The trade-in dealer may have a secure power of attorney allowing them to obtain a replacement. The lienholder would also need to provide a lien release document to clear the lien hold on the duplicate title.

The method used to contact these parties is extremely important. It is highly discouraged to use a phone call to request assistance from them. A verbal phone call is actually a demand for the other party to do work, when actually you want them to do you a favor. They do not have the forms handy, the instructions, or even the details of the vehicle.

The highest probability of success is to prepare all of the documents needed in advance, and send them via postal mail to the parties. Prepare a complete DMV Duplicate Title Request form and mail that to the registered owner and the trade-in dealer. Prepare a lien release form and send that to the lienholder of record. In addition, DO NOT send the form to the address on file with the DMV for the registered owner. This address is outdated since it is what was active when the person originally bought the vehicle many years ago. Look up the current address of the person where they currently reside. 

Best Practice Tips

Do not try to contact a prior owner by phone. A surprise phone call about a car that was long since sold is startling to a consumer, and can put them off of helping you. Even if they are willing to help, there is nothing they can do for you over the phone. They need to sign documents. Sending by mail and giving the courtesy of them reviewing your request before you barge in on their life with a phone call is much more productive.

What to Do…

  • Prepare all forms in advice

  • Send via postal mail

  • Include return envelope and postage

  • Add a note with instructions and appreciation

  • Send documents to multiple addresses

  • Provide your contact information for questions

What NOT to Do…

  • Contact owner via phone

  • Use social media

  • Be unclear about your request

  • Forget to send lien release to lender

  • Send documents to the auction

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