In the market for a used vehicle? Here are five quick tips to keep in mind

Used cars

By Ryan Harding / ADOT Communications

Not to sound like your parents or elementary school teachers, but when it comes to buying a used vehicle it’s very important to do your homework! A little bit of research up front can potentially save you from making a several-thousand-dollar mistake.

Fortunately, ADOT’s Motor Vehicle Division can serve as a resource for protecting consumers in the pre-owned vehicle market. Here are a few tips and resources for you to keep in mind the next time you’re looking for a used vehicle:

Check the vehicle title for liens. It’s very important to make sure there are no liens on the title of a vehicle you are thinking about buying. If you purchase a vehicle with a lien, the title cannot be transferred into your name, nor can you register the vehicle in your name. No registration means you can’t drive the vehicle, and no title means you can’t sell the vehicle.

How can you check for liens? Two ways:

1. Conduct the transaction at an MVD office or Authorized Third Party business. By coming to us, you can have peace of mind that you’ll get the straight scoop on the vehicle record. We’ll run the vehicle identification number (VIN) and check the record. Don’t hand over that check until you’ve verified you can take complete ownership of the vehicle.

2. Use the Lien Motor Vehicle Inquiry feature on This service performs a real-time search of the VIN number to determine if there is any lien on the vehicle record. The service costs $1.50 and five minutes of your time, but it’s well worth it when you consider the alternative of paying for a vehicle you can’t register, use or sell.

Also, don’t forget to:

Have a trusted mechanic or auto shop inspect the vehicle. Make sure you aren’t buying a lemon. Arizona’s Lemon Law only protects you if you’re buying from a licensed dealer, but there’s no protection for private-party sales. Have the mechanic conduct a complete inspection of the vehicle to uncover worn parts, water damage, poorly repaired collision damage or other safety problems.

Use your good judgment and ask lots of questions. There are no bad questions when it comes to making a big purchase. Ask for identification to make sure the seller is the owner listed on the title. Ask for maintenance records. Check the odometer readings. But most importantly, take your time. If the seller is acting suspicious, unwilling to show ID or records or trying to rush the process, know that you can walk away at any time. There are plenty of other vehicles out there. Take the time to find the purchase that’s right for you.

Finally, if you’ve been a victim of fraud concerning vehicle titles, registrations and driver licenses, ADOT is here to help you. Call our 24-hour fraud hotline at 877.712.2370 or email at [email protected].