Locating a Vehicle You Used to Drive

Written by Chloe Harwood

Is a car that you owned years ago is still around somewhere? In fact, have you wondered if it was possible to purchase that car and own it again?  After all, the majority of us have significant memories of life events that are tied to a vehicle in one form or another – think a a memorable vacation, a favorite road trip, perhaps even a marriage proposal!  Here are a few thoughts as to how you can find that special car.

To get started on the task, you need to get your hands on some information. Answer these questions first: What is the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)? What about the car’s license plate number? Do I have a picture of the vehicle? Do I know the car’s history before I bought it?  According to the team at Century 3 Chevrolet in West Mifflin, PA, all of these items can help in your search.

First, the VIN will be a big piece of data.  The VIN is not just on any old titles you may have but also on the insurance card and registration, as well as on loan papers. So the first step is to see if you saved any of the car’s paperwork.  One thing to do is to check with the insurance company you had see if they have records that go back to the car you’re seeking. The same goes for the bank that held any loan you may have taken out to help pay for it.

OK, now for the possibly discouraging piece. Once you have your old VIN, can the DMV help you find the car?  Maybe. Some state DMVs will assist, but most won’t. This rule stems from the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which contains regulations regarding how the DMV is to protect drivers’ private information, which agencies and individuals may lawfully be granted access to and under appropriate circumstances.  If your local DMV can’t help you, many people drop by their local police station and ask if they can help. Others employ a licensed private investigator, as these people have access to that data.

Unfortunately, many people will have to venture beyond the DMV and vehicle history report websites and appeal directly to the people. You’ll find hundreds of car enthusiast websites that will let you place ads, posts or even a story about the search for your long, lost car. Write a catchy title, the car’s year, make, and model; the car’s VIN (if you know it); its interior and exterior colors; its drivetrain, including transmission, engine and rear end and a nice human interest story – “I proposed to her in this car…” It would also be great if you included what years you owned it, what city and state you lived in (when you owned it), the name of the individual you sold it to and when, and what town and state that person lived in at the time. Maybe that car still exists somewhere and you might be able to get your hands on it again!


About the author

Chloe Harwood