How to Check a Car Title History

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a federally-operated organization and website, retains a wide array of information on nearly all vehicles bought and sold in the U.S., including title data, brand history, odometer reading, total loss history and salvage history. When buying a used vehicle, the NMVTIS can help you avoid purchasing a vehicle listed as salvaged, stolen or other undesirable issues. Obtain a title history, along with the other aforementioned information, through NMVTIS in one of two ways, via mail to your local Department of Motor Vehicles or instantly online. Unfortunately, neither process is free, but the fees assessed are nominal.

Checking Title History by Mail

Step 1 Call your local Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain the base fee for a title transaction history. While speaking with your local DMV, ask the operator for the mailing address for the title history request. Notate this information on a piece of paper.

Step 2 Obtain the pertinent information for the vehicle for which you request the title history, including vehicle identification number, vehicle year, vehicle make and vehicle model. To help get a complete history, include the last titled owner and title number, if available.

Step 3 Write a professionally worded letter requesting a complete title and odometer history, and including the information obtained in Step 2 and your contact information, including name, address and telephone number. Include a sentence requesting the DMV to contact you via telephone or letter if the money included in the envelope does not satisfy the fee for a full title and odometer history. If you are obtaining this history to verify odometer tampering, include that you are requesting this information as evidence of potential odometer tampering -- this helps bypass privacy laws by using Federal law, 18 USC Section 2721 (b)(2).

Step 4 Write a check or money order for the base fee obtained in Step 1 and insert the request letter along with the check or money order in an envelope. Write the address for the DMV on the envelope, and place your return address in the upper-right corner of the envelope. Stick the appropriate postage stamp on the envelope, and place the envelope in the mail.

Wait for a response from the DMV and follow any further steps the DMV requests of you. Some state motor vehicle departments may require you to fill out a particular form, and will send you this form in the mail as a response.

Checking Title History Online

Step 1 Find your vehicle's vehicle identification number on the VIN plate, which is viewable from the lower, driver's side corner of your vehicle's windshield. Notate the VIN on a piece of paper.

Step 2 Log onto the internet and direct your browser to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System's home page. Click on the "Check Vehicle History" button on the center of the page.

Step 3 Scroll down the page until you reach the section titled "Approved NMVTIS Data Providers."

Step 4 Select one of the four approved NMVTIS data providers by clicking the company you would like to use.

Observe as another site opens up. Follow the prompts on the selected site to purchase a vehicle title history. The exact process varies, depending on the site, but most sites will require your name, address, phone number, VIN, vehicle year, vehicle make, vehicle model and a major credit card. Once you provide all of the required information, the information appears on your computer screen almost immediately.

Items you will need: Telephone, Paper, Pen or pencil, Check or money order (amount varies), Envelope, Postage stamp, Internet access, Major credit card