Roger Walling

National Title Data Base???

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I am thinking of buying a car that has had a title issued about 20 or 30 years ago and the actual paper title has been lost by the new owner. The owners name on the title document is unkown.

Is there a "National Title Data Base" that you could enter the VIN into in order to locate the previous owner?

If a new title is applied for, would the facts come up that there is an existing title in force?

The car is over 50 years old.

Thanks for any info. or advice.

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First, have you taken the VIN number to your local DMV to see if they can help?

I take it the current owner never had it transferred into their name??

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Peter is correct. Their is no national database. As long as you know what state it was registered in, that state's motor vehicle department should be able to locate a title. If it is not in the name of the person that you are buying it from, you may have trouble. The answer depends a lot on which state you are dealing with. Some are easy to work with and some are not.

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Roger....Here's the deal in Arkansas. Mechanics with a lien or anyone else for that matter routinely use the law to get a new title. The procedure is simple really. With the VIN in hand, an Arkansas State Trooper must run the number making sure the car is not stolen. Following that, if the previous owner is known, a certified letter must be sent to the address the state records show. If previous owner is unknown or if there is no reply to the letter in 30 days, applicant must run an ad listing the VIN, stating the vehicle must be picked up within so many days or it will be sold. The ad must be run for 10 consecutive days in a newspaper that has "acceptable circulation levels" in the area where the vehicle is located. After all this is done, the Dept of Finance and Administration will issue a new title. I've done this many times for my old motorcycles. It is tedious, but not much trouble otherwise. I have no idea regarding other state's laws.

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Peter is correct. Their is no national database. .....

But officers of the law can call in a VIN and get information if it is registered to someone, and if so where, right?

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They would have to know which state that it was registered in.....and I am retired now....so I don't have access to that type of stuff anymore...

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I didn't mean to imply in any way that you should help, or ask an active officer, as that would be an incorrect use of tax payer's money and law enforcement resources. I was only asking because I have always understood it that officers can use the VIN to find out who a vehicle is registered to, if it is, and the plates have been removed or switched with stolen ones.

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Yes, an officer can run the serial number of a vehicle in a database. If it is stolen it is in a national database of stolen vehicles and it will come back as a stolen vehicle no matter which state it is from.

However, if it is not stolen, a registration inquiry would have to be run in a state database (or up to 50 different state databases, if you have no idea what state the car is registered in).

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Thank you for the explanation. :) I was not aware that the vehicle had to have been stolen to show up in a national data base. I thought they all showed up, if they had been registered, when an inquiry was made.

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Here in Iowa, when they changed over and put everything on computers they tossed out many of the old VIN numbers on cars that weren't currently in the system or being licensed. It just depended on who was doing the work and if they felt like entering all the numbers. I have a title and VIN tag for a '41 Buick I put in storage back in 1983 and I asked a gal I know at the recorders office about that old title. She said it's still good and that they would have no way to prove otherwise since I still had the title. In those days all they did was stamp "Stored" across the title and make a note of it at the court house. And that paperwork (she said) was long gone... just like that old Buick! It really does vary a lot from state to state. Now Iowa will work with you on a thing like an old car title. In those days they would not. So about all you could do back then was buy another car and do what you had to in order to get it on the road.

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I'm saying Pennsylvania titles before a specific year (I think 1970 or so) have never been entered into the Pennsylvania computer system so cannot be accessed today. If the car was registered in the intervening years I would suppose that the title must be accessible. My point is titles are strictly a state issue with very wide differences in how states handle titling and registering a vehicle.

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Pennsylvania Department of Transporation has an administrative policy of purging their system's files after 10 years. What this means is that if you own a car which you have not registered for more than 10 years, Penn Dot may not be able to find any information on that car in their system. With the advent of computers, they do seem to have some information (limited) back to 1994. Also, while it may show up in a Penn Dot computer, there is no gaurentee that they will be able to print the images from microfilm if that has been purged.

Bottom line in PA, don't lose your title. If you lose your title, or you purchase a vehicle without a title and Penn Dot can't help you, then your only recourse is to petition the Court for a title.

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One more thing Roger...There are several companies that say they can, for a fee, get a title for any vehicle. Be wary of these. I know that here in Arkansas, many of these companies are on a watch list and titles from certain states are given extra scrutiny just for that reason. Talk to your DMV...If you get someone who actually knows what they are doing, all the help you need will be forthcoming. What throws the DNV folks are unusual requests because they get so few of them. I have little trouble with my local DMV here in Marion because A it is a small town and B I am well known both as a longtime resident and a retired police officer so that makes thing go smoother for me.

I would strongly suggest you obtain title to your car BEFORE you restore/repair it. Nothing would be worse that doing the work first and then having the last title holder claiming his "new" car.

Arkansas also handles things like antique tags and vanity plates thrugh the stste office in Little Rock. If you fail to get good advice from your local office the state office will usually have one person who does nothing but handle the odd request. All these folks are interested in is that you are not trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

I look for the laws in many states regarding antique tags to change very soon. Here in Arkansas the only requirements are the vehicle must be 25 years old and it can't be the only vehicle you have registered in the state. With the advent of fuel injection more and more cars are reaching that 25 year anniversary and at least here, there are no restrictions on using the vehicle except it can't be used for hire and if a truck can't carry over a 1,000 pound load. Since AR antique tags do not expire many folks are taking advantage of the law to avoid paying annual renewal fees. I find this a shamless way of skirting the law.

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i avoid such cars.

I am thinking of buying a car that has had a title issued about 20 or 30 years ago and the actual paper title has been lost by the new owner. The owners name on the title document is unkown.

Is there a "National Title Data Base" that you could enter the VIN into in order to locate the previous owner?

If a new title is applied for, would the facts come up that there is an existing title in force?

The car is over 50 years old.

Thanks for any info. or advice.

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I recently went to Penn Dot for 2 replacement titles for vehicles that I somehow misplaced or lost the titles years ago. I owned the one vehicle for 36 years and the other for 24 years and I was in and out in less than 1/2 hour with replacement titles. I believe it cost me $18 each. I have since sold the one vehicle.

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Ron, I guess I should have clarified, the statement.

You are correct, Penn Dot is great with getting replacement titles IF they still have the title in their computer system, or if the title was ever placed in the computer system in the first place.

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A friend had to appeal through the courts for a title for his '51 Hudson (last inspection 1959).

Apparently it is a fairly standard process here in PA... but cumbersome.

If you're considering a vehcile without a title, check first with your MVA/DMV as to what sort of provenance you need from the present owner.

If present owner had said vehicle titled and registered in their name, if they have a registration card, it should bear the title number and the DMV might be able to issue a duplicate title....

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