Online tool helps buyers do their research before making vehicle purchase

Online tool helps buyers do their research before making vehicle purchase

August 1, 2013
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Imagine this…

After weeks of searching, you finally find the perfect used vehicle and, with cash in hand, you set off to buy the car.

Once you pay for the vehicle, you couldn’t be happier with the purchase, so you head to the nearest MVD office (or authorized third party office) to register the car in your name.

That’s where you learn that the vehicle’s record has a lien placed on it, meaning the title can’t be transferred to a new owner (you) until those fines/fees are paid!

Luckily, this scenario doesn’t have to play out in real life if you take a few steps to protect yourself before buying a car.

Checking for liens – now, you can do it yourself

Prospective buyers have always been able to request a check of a motor vehicle record in person at any area MVD office (or authorized third party office) by using the vehicle identification number (VIN). This helps uncover any issues noted in the motor vehicle record and can determine if there are any current financial or operation of law liens.

Now, the same information can be obtained online -- as long as you have a VIN -- by visiting and navigating to "check vehicle title status" under "Title." It's important to note that no personal information from a motor vehicle record will be accessible or revealed through this customer service feature.

What types of liens can be placed on a motor vehicle title? Liens fall into two general categories…

  • Financial liens will appear on the front of the title in the space marked, “Lienholders.” These liens are generally for a defined period of time and when paid/satisfied, the vehicle owner receives a “lien release.” The owner may take that lien release to an MVD or Authorized Third Party office to obtain a new title (or, the vehicle owner may give the buyer the signed and notarized title with a lien release from the lender).
  • Unresolved financial obligations can be added electronically and are not shown on the title as financial liens are. Unresolved financial obligation liens are not for a defined period of time and can be added or deleted at any time – think child support liens or court fines/fees (operation of law liens). These must be paid before the title can be transferred.

Please note that new liens are added to vehicles every day, therefore, you are taking a risk if you check the record and then pay for the vehicle at a later time.

Besides checking for liens, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself from a fraudulent deal, including obtaining a vehicle history report. Find more information (everything from verifying a vehicle’s details to tips on buying online or from an out-of-state seller) on our website. You can learn more about liens by checking out this Web page.

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