Car Lien Check

Try our Vehicle Lien Check and Receive the Real Status of the Car

A VIN number, or Vehicle Identification Number is a 17-digit number, that serves as the car's unique identity code.
For most vehicles, you can find the VIN on your front driver’s side interior dashboard or the driver’s side door post. Alternatively, you may find it on the vehicle’s insurance and ownership documents.
Example: 1GNSKSKD7PR434184

Buying a car that still has a lien on it can be risky. A lien is a legal claim that gives the lender the right to repossess the vehicle if the borrower fails to pay off their loan. If you buy a vehicle with a lien, you may not be able to get a clear title and register it in your name. You may also lose your possession if the previous owner defaults on their loan.

To avoid these problems, you should always perform a vehicle lien check before buying a used vehicle. The vehicle lien search will help you determine if the car has any outstanding loans or liens, and who is its legal owner.

What is a Lien on a Car?

A lien title is a way of legally securing someone's property as collateral. When you buy a vehicle with a loan, the lender will have a claim on the vehicle until you pay off the loan and meet any other conditions. The charge means that you will get full ownership of the vehicle once you clear the debt.

It also means that the lender can take back the vehicle and sell it if you don't pay as agreed. It doesn't impact how you use and care for the vehicle. You can drive and maintain it as you wish.

However, if you default on your loan or violate the terms of the agreement, your lender can repossess your vehicle with or without warning. Usually, you will get some notices or reminders before the vehicle is repossessed.

What is a Lienholder?

The lienholder is an entity or individual who has a legal right to your property until you pay off your loan. They may be the person who lent you money to buy the car or allowed you to lease the car to you with interest.

If you are getting an auto loan from a dealership, a bank, or a private lender, they are the lienholder. The financier owns the asset until you finish paying for it.

Can I Buy or Sell a Vehicle with a Lien?

If you want to buy or sell a car with a lien reported on it, you should be aware of some extra steps involved in the process. This can affect your ability to transfer ownership, register, insure, or finance the vehicle. Let’s find out what it will take:

Buying a Car

Buying a car with a charge on it can be a strategic way to save money, but it also requires some extra steps and precautions. A lien means that the seller still owes money to a lender, giving them the right to repossess it if the loan is not paid off.

So, how can you minimize the risk of buying such a car? First, get confirmation that the title has a charge on it. You can ask the seller for this information, but you should also verify it with your state's motor vehicle department. Alternatively, you can run an online vehicle lien check to find out the title status.

Next, you should find out how much the seller owes to the lender and how they plan to pay it off. There are a few ways the debt repayment can be arranged:

  • The seller can pay off the loan before the sale and get the title from the lender. It's the simplest option, but it may not be possible for cash-strapped sellers who don't have enough cash or who owe more than the car is worth.
  • You, as the buyer, can pay off the loan yourself directly to the lender and receive the title from them. It may allow you to negotiate a lower price with the seller, but you need to make sure you don't pay more than the vehicle’s worth.
  • You can apply for a loan of your own to pay off the lender and receive the title from them. The new financer will then become the lienholder until you pay off your loan.
  • It's similarly possible to use an escrow service that will hold your payment until the seller pays off the loan and transfers the title to you. Using this option protects you from fraud or default, but could attract extra fees.

When negotiating the terms with the seller and lienholder, you need to make sure that you get a written contract outlining how the lien will be removed or transferred, and what happens if something goes wrong. The car should be subjected to a vehicle history search and mechanical inspection to check for damages or issues. After receiving the title, you can register the vehicle in your name at your local DMV office and enjoy your new ride.

  • Buying a car with a lien mandates extra steps to remove the hold and ensure that the title is transferred to you.
  • You still purchase a vehicle with a charge if your payment goes towards clearing the outstanding loan. Buyers can also get a loan of their own to pay off the lienholder or have the seller pay off their loan before the sale.

Selling a Car

Selling a vehicle with a lien is possible, but you need to clear the loan before receiving any of the proceeds from the sale. During the sale, the lienholder has the priority to claim the money from the sale.

The buyer's payment will be split into two parts: the first payment goes to the lender to release the hold on the property, and the other part goes to you if the car is worth more than the outstanding balance in addition to any penalties for earlier repayment. If the lender authorizes the sale, they will transfer the title to the buyer who has made the payments in full.

It’s only the registered owner in the title documents that can transfer ownership to you.

What is a Car Lien Check?

This is a check performed against the vehicle’s title to investigate if a lender has placed an existing charge on it. This happens when the vehicle is being used as collateral for an outstanding loan, be it a personal loan or auto loan.

There are various ways for performing a vehicle lien search. You can utilize online vehicle search solutions like FAXVIN, where you submit the car’s VIN number, and get results that are pooled from a variety of sources, including DMV records.

Alternatively, you can get the service by contacting your state's motor vehicle department. Some states make lien history available to buyers, but others don't. Keeping in mind that the vehicle could have liens in different states, an online check is more comprehensive as the information is pooled from hundreds of vehicle databases.

Is it possible to forgo a lien check? Well, if you’re buying a car from a private seller, the check is quite paramount. Additionally, if you choose to still buy a unit with a charge, you should come up with a written document that states how much is owed, and when and how they will repay it. This affords you some legal protection. When you're buying a car from a registered dealer, they have the legal obligation to clear any liens before selling it to you.

How to Find the VIN?

If you are assessing any vehicle, you need to know how to find its VIN. The VIN is a unique 17-digit code assigned by the manufacturer that identifies each vehicle. It can tell you important information about its history, such as the make, model, year, features, and whether it has been in any accidents or recalls.

The VIN can be found in many places on the vehicle frame and on its documents. The first place to look is the title documents, insurance documents, or the manual. These should have the VIN printed on them. However, you still need to physically spot the VIN on the vehicle you're about to buy to ensure that it matches the VIN on the identification documents.

Note that VIN swapping is possible. It’s a type of fraud where thieves replace or alter the VIN of a stolen car with a different one, usually from a similar make and model. This way, they can sell the stolen model to unsuspecting buyers who think they are getting a legitimate deal.

To avoid being a victim of VIN fraud, you should always check the VIN on the car itself and compare it with the VIN on the documents. The most common place to find the VIN is on the dashboard near the windshield on the driver's side. You can also find it on the driver's side door jamb, under the hood, or on the engine block. The VIN should be clearly visible and not tampered with.

After finding the VIN, the next step is conducting the title lien search. It’s an essential step that many buyers overlook, often to their detriment. They either end up with cars with a trouble-ridden history or become victims of fraud. So, always do your research before making a purchase, and don't hesitate to ask questions if something seems suspicious.

Where can I Find Lien Information?

Lien Information Check

This information can be accessed from any source that has cataloged the vehicle data. For instance, you can easily get one by ordering a FAXVIN report. This comprehensive history report shows you the lien history, as well as other important details. It’s based on information sourced from multiple databases.

Not only can you know if there is a charge on the vehicle, but you can also get hints of how many owners the car had, its mileage, and its title status to check for major damage or accidents. This information is crucial because it can help you avoid any hidden problems or costs.

You can check for a lien by asking the seller, checking the VIN with your state's motor vehicle department, or requesting an online title and history report.

How to Check if a Car has a Lien for Free?

Do you want to know if a car has a claim on it without paying anything? Here are two easy ways to check car lien for free:

  • Visit your state’s transportation agency website, and check if there is a utility or service that allows you to perform a lien holder search. You’ll just need to enter the VIN.
  • Look at the title if you have access to it. It might show the name of the lien holder if there is one, making it a reliable way to perform a free lien check.

Should You Pay off Your Car Loan Early?

If you want to get rid of your auto loan faster, you might consider paying it off early. This can save you money on interest and free up your monthly budget. However, you should check if there are any prepayment penalties or fees involved. You should also weigh how this payment can affect your financial situation.

When does it Make Sense?

Well, the answer depends on several factors, such as the penalty charges, the remaining interest amount, and the number of installments you have already paid. As we have said before, pre-closing your auto loan can attract a penalty fee. Therefore, you should compare the penalty fee with the total interest amount and see if it is worth it.

You should also avoid pre-closing your auto loan when you are near the end of the payment term, as you will end up paying more than you save. The best time to pre-close is when you have paid most of the principal amount and have a few installments left.


In conclusion, buying a car with a lien may be risky if you’re not aware of the claim and find out about it when it’s too late. There is still some risk if you decide to choose a car with a lien but you can reduce it by specifying the terms of the transfer with the seller and the lender.

Under this agreement, the money you pay should go towards paying off the existing loan so that the title can be transferred to you without any issues. FAXVIN is here every step of the way, giving you access to critical history details that can help you evaluate the best deals and find options worth your time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an individual be a lienholder on a vehicle?
A lienholder is someone who has a stake in your car until you pay off your loan. It could be a bank, a company, or a person. They have the right to repossess your car and sell it if you don't pay them back.
What is a lien release?
A lien release is a document that proves you have paid off your car loan and own the vehicle outright. It shows that your lender has no more claim on the car and has transferred the title to you. With a lien release, you can enjoy your car without any worries.