How to Locate a Car You Previously Owned With or Without the VIN

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Many people feel the seller’s remorse after parting with a vehicle. But if you find yourself thinking about a vehicle you sold years ago, why not see if you can’t buy it back?

While it may seem like an impossible task to track down a vehicle you used to own, with a little information and a lot of dedication, it’s easier than you think to find your old vehicle!

Find the car with the VIN

The best way to find a car you previously owned is to use the VIN. With the VIN, you can easily verify the current owner of the car.

While you may get lucky and find your car without the VIN, having the VIN makes everything a million times easier. If you’re trying to figure out how you’ll track your VIN after all this time, keep reading and we’ll help you get the information you need.

How to track the VIN

If you don’t have the VIN, finding your vehicle is far from guaranteed. But if you can locate the VIN and are willing to spend a little money, chances are you will find it.

1. Old paperwork

If you have any of your old registration or insurance forms, the vehicle’s VIN is likely there. Whether you’re a hoarder or just keep great records, this is one of the easiest ways to trace the VIN of your old vehicle.

2. Go to the DMV!

Just because you don’t have any of the above registration documents doesn’t mean you can’t track where your vehicle is. For starters, the DMV normally saves all of that information.

You will need one of two things to track down the VIN for your old vehicle. If you still have the same driver’s license number that you had when you owned the vehicle, that’s all you need. If you don’t have it, but do have your old license plate number, that will work as well.

Whether you call them or visit them in person, just give them this information and ask if you can get the VIN. However, they can’t tell you who the current owner of the vehicle is, so you’ll have to make do with just the VIN.

3. Try the Insurance Company!

Whether you don’t want to deal with the DMV or don’t have the required information, there’s another bureaucratic giant you can call for information: the insurance company you were using when you owned the car.

They must keep records of all the vehicles they have insured, so if you call them they should be able to provide you with the VIN.

4. The bill of sale

While this is technically paperwork, it’s not something people think about all that often. But every bill of sale must have the VIN of the vehicle. So if you can trace the bill of sale from the time you bought or sold the vehicle, you should be able to get the VIN.

Find your car when you have found the VIN!

Once you have located the VIN, the best thing to do to try to find your vehicle is to use a service like CARFAX. Although CARFAX is not free, it is almost a sure way to find your vehicle, as long as it is registered.

CARFAX’s comprehensive reports will give you everything you need to know, current and previous owners, mileage, maintenance records, an accident history and much more.

However, once you have the current owner’s information, you can track them down and search for their car.

If you’re not willing to spend the money on a CARFAX report, you can try googling the VIN or use some of the free VIN decoders to try and locate it.

If you’re Googling the VIN, be sure to put it in parentheses, and Google will search the internet for exact matches. While this may not produce any results, if you keep trying periodically, you might be in luck.

If you are tired of waiting or can’t find any results, CARFAX will always be an option waiting for you if you are willing to pay.

Please note that while CARFAX is a great tool, CARFAX does not guarantee that you will be able to locate the new owner. That means you could end up spending quite a bit of money and never find your old vehicle.

without the VIN

If you don’t have the vehicle’s VIN and can’t track it, it will make it much more difficult to find your vehicle. While it’s not impossible, the odds aren’t in your favor either.

Use license plate number

Do you remember the registration number or can you find it on any documents you had before with the registration number? If you have the license plate number, you can get the VIN.

No license plate

The best chance you have of finding a car you previously owned without the VIN or license plate is to track down the person you sold it to and see if they still have it. If not, try to find out who they sold it to and track them down. Continue this search until you find your vehicle.

Of course, at any time, all it takes is one person to tell you that they don’t know who you sold it to and that you’ve hit a dead end.

Advertising or Facebook groups

That’s where you can go old school with it, with a new school twist. You can throw out flyers and ads, of course, but you’re better off visiting Facebook groups and online forums.

This is especially effective if you have a unique car that excites car enthusiasts. It’s definitely a gamble, but it’s better than just discarding it.

Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a stock vehicle like a stock Ford Explorer or Volkswagen Jetta, there’s a good chance you’ll find it. Even if you did, how would you know it’s yours?


If you’re attached to a car you sold a while back, you’re not alone. The good news is that if you have a little information about the vehicle and the dedication to finding it, tracking down your old vehicle is far from impossible!

Also remember that just because you found it doesn’t mean the new owner will sell it to you, and even if they are willing to, they may not sell it for a fair price.