Although vehicle ownership information is usually protected by the law and considered private, there are a number of reasons for wanting to find out an owner. It could be an unfortunate hit-and-run accident, buying a used car from a stranger, or even in case you’re being stalked by an unknown vehicle. So, what are some of the ways to find the registered owner of a vehicle for free?
Here are some steps to finding out the registered owner of a vehicle for free:
- Establish if your reason for searching is legal
- Gather as much information as possible about the vehicle
- Utilize free online databases
- Contact the police
- Post on social media
- Contact your insurance company
In this article, I will discuss some proven ways to find the registered owner of a vehicle without spending your hard-earned cash.
1. Establish if Your Reason for Searching Is Legal
The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act prohibits the issuance or sharing of driver details unless there are credible reasons. Although the privacy law varies from state to state, here are some instances where it will be legal to unearth details about a car’s owner:
- For use by a relevant government agency: It is legal for any court, law enforcement, or government agency to search for the registered details of a car owner if it aligns with a function or need. This means you can contact the police and request to know the owner of a vehicle in the event of a crime.
- For use by professional agencies: Professional agencies like insurance and tow companies can obtain car registration details, provided it is for work-related purposes. Researchers are also allowed by law to retrieve car owner details when working on statistical reports.
- For use in business: The law also permits buyers and sellers to retrieve personal information of a car owner if it’s to verify the accuracy of the details provided or prevent potential fraud.
The law permits the search of personal information but only if there is a good enough reason. Therefore, if you don’t have solid reasons to conduct a car registration search, chances are you’ll find many legal barriers and thus have an ineffective search.
It’s important to always have a legitimate reason for wanting to research the registered owner of a vehicle to avoid legal problems. If it’s a criminal offense, then your best bet is the police, while a hit-and-run incident may also need to be reported to both the police and your insurance company.
In any case, it’s crucial to ensure that your reasons for a search are genuine and motivated by security or legal reasons.
2. Gather As Much Information As Possible About the Vehicle
When looking to find the registered owner of a vehicle for free, it’s advisable to gather as much information as possible. Unfortunately, the license plate number is never enough, which means you might need to get closer to retrieve the VIN. A VIN will make the process of finding the owner a lot easier, especially if you have no leads.
A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique code that identifies vehicles. The code contains a car’s country of manufacture, manufacturer, engine size, model year, and unique serial number. A VIN allows relevant agencies to retrieve details about the vehicle and its owner.
Other factors to consider include the model, shape, and color of the car. Try to look out for any unique features the car may have, such as damages, scratches, dents, custom license plates, or other modifications. Put simply, you should collect any useful information that can help you narrow down your search. Such information can make it easier for law enforcers to track down the real owner.
If you were involved in an accident and unable to take note of the vehicle’s features, check for any bystanders or witnesses that may have noticed something you didn’t, such as the car’s license plate, color, make, or model, as this information might be helpful later on when reporting the information to the police or your insurance company.
3. Find the Vehicle Owner by VIN (Free Online Databases)
Finding the car owner has become a lot easier over the years, especially since the advent of the internet. A simple online search will give you access to several car search websites (free and premium) that help retrieve personal information. However, for this method to yield success, you’ll need to identify the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN).
Unfortunately, finding the VIN of a car isn’t a straightforward process as you’ll need to locate it manually on the vehicle. The location of VINs tends to vary depending on a car’s make and model. Some of the most common areas to find a VIN are the driver’s side dashboard (can be viewed through the windshield) and the door jamb on the driver’s side.
The easier way to obtain a VIN is by checking the vehicle’s DMV records and insurance card. However, since you’re not the car’s owner, this option won’t apply, which leaves manual VIN identification as your only option.
Once you have the VIN, next is to head online and search for sites that offer free car identification. Point to note, while some sites might claim to provide free vehicle search services, most will need you to pay a fee to get personal identification details. However, websites like Vehicle History will help you get a full Vin report and conduct searches by license plates.
Although not consistently accurate, online databases can help you know the current owner, whether the car is stolen, if it’s been involved in accidents, and if the vehicle has pending registration issues, among a host of other publicly available information.
4. Contact the Police
Contacting the police is a highly reliable method to find the registered owner of a vehicle for free. However, for you to rely on the assistance of police officers, your reason for retrieval must be as a result of illegal activity. This could be a hit-and-run accident, the threat of a stalker, suspicion of car theft, and other reasons that involve a breach of the law.
Providing the police with key information such as license plate number and the VIN can make the investigations a lot easier (and faster). It’s also advisable to share any additional information you may have about the car’s appearance and model with the police.
And although the police will not call you to inform you about every step of the investigation, their assistance and involvement increase the chances of retrieving the car owner’s personal information.
5. Post on Social Media
Another free way to find the registered owner of a vehicle is by using social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter receive a lot of traffic, which explains their ever-increasing use in professional and social setups. While the chances of finding a car owner through social media posts are slim, the search can yield positive results or at the least give you clues that can come in handy elsewhere.
The trick when posting on social media is to target specific groups with similar interests. For instance, you can head to a local page (where you live or work) and do an inquiry post to see if someone within your locality knows more about the vehicle or its owner. Apps like Nextdoor also allow you to narrow down your search by localizing your posts to a specific area.
Posting a photo of the car in question will help boost the chances of finding the owner or clues about the owner. Disclaimer, social media works well when combined with other methods like using online databases and notifying the relevant authorities.
6. Contact Your Insurance Company
Another simple way to determine a car’s registered owner is by placing an inquiry with your insurer. As a rule, you should always contact your insurance company immediately if an accident or incident involving your vehicle occurs.
Your insurer will help you get to the bottom of the case, especially when dealing with a hit-and-run incident. Therefore, to increase the chances of successful data retrieval, it’s crucial to provide your insurer with as many details as possible. Share every information you might have from the vehicle’s model and color to the license plate number and even VIN if you managed to get close to the offender’s car.
Insurance companies are permitted by law to access a driver’s personal information, meaning they’re perfectly suited to the identity retrieval task as long as it’s part of their work. Therefore, before trying to find the registered vehicle owner independently, you should consider liaising with your insurance company as they’re likely to obtain information with ease.
There are many ways to find the registered owner of a vehicle for free. However, for the search to be successful, you’ll need to provide the VIN. Once you have the VIN, you can type it in and search online databases like Vehicle History.
Another alternative is posting on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor, ensuring you provide as much detail as possible. It is also advisable to contact the police, especially when dealing with criminal or potentially illegal incidences.