Finding previous owner

When looking for a used car, I always ask for the previous owner’s contact information. And it never fails that the dealer gives me a spiel about how they bought the car at auction down in Florida. Is there anyway around this; doesn’t the auction house supply them with previous owner information??

Carfax (or similar) should tell you if the previous owner was a rental company or other fleet. Otherwise, what exactly would you do with the previous owner’s information? The whole reason why people are willing to trade in their cars at half the price they’d get selling them themselves is so they don’t have to deal with the whole process of selling a car. So with that in mind, what makes you think the average car tradee would be very happy answering questions from some random yahoo who’s looking at their former car on a lot?

I also don’t really see what it would accomplish. It’s not likely that they’ll still have any maintenance records (and not that they’d give them to you-- see above), and it’s not likely they’re going to admit they traded in some POS with all sorts of hidden problems. If you’re the sort that thinks you can figure out what kind of shape a car is in based on the owner’s handshake or haircut, for one thing I will tell you from hard experience that this is impossible, but also why not just buy from a private party? You can generally get better deals and you get all the face-to-face time with previous owners you can handle!

I want to talk to the previous owner because they have nothing to lose by telling me they sold the car because the transmission is going out or it has some weirdo thing going on with the electrical system or that they let their 17-year-old drive it across country, or, best of all, because they just wanted a new car. I have called the previous owner of a couple of cars and they were glad to tell me what was wrong/right with the car and why they sold it. I’m talking about a car that’s on a dealer’s lot; not cars being sold by private individuals.

The most important thing to do if you are serious about a used car is to pay a competent mechanic to check it out.
You may be able to find out about the former owner on a very late model trade-in if you are shopping the lot of a new car dealer. The dealer may even have serviced the car and you can see the records. However, dealers swap cars around, so this often isn’t possible. I once saw a used AMC Ambassador that was apparently traded in at the Oldsmobile dealer. It was on the lot about a week, and then disappeared. I assume it had been sold, but I was wrong. Two days later it was on the lot at the Rambler dealer. If you are shopping at a strictly used car dealer, you probably won’t find much information. These cars may have come from an auction and dealers buy up what they think they can sell. Even new car dealers do this. A new car dealership has several departments–new car sales, used car sales, service, parts, and possibly a body shop. Each department has a manager and each manager has to show a profit for his department. The used car managers have to keep up a stock of cars–they supplement the stock of the more desirable new car trade-ins with what they can get at auctions.

Back in the 1950’s, I was sent to a little shop off an alley to get some welding done. There was a late model Plymouth in the shop having some body work done. The Plymouth had been a taxicab. The light had been removed from the top and the holes filled in. The body was having the hail-me paint stripped off in preparation of a new paint job. The seats had been fitted with new seat covers. I know that the vehicle was going to a used car lot to be sold. I’m certain that the vehicle was described as a one-owner 1956 Plymouth. I’m certain that if the prospective buyer had a pre-purchase inspection by a knowledgeable mechanic, the car’s past would be revealed.

On the other hand, I found a nice car at a trusted used car dealer. I took it to my mechanic and he found signs that the car had previously been owned by an older owner who he thought had been quite fussy about the maintenance. The car had come from out of state, so I didn’t have a way of tracing the owner. I bought the car and it was very satisfactory.

There are privacy laws regarding this I’m sure. The best you can do is have the car checked out by a trusted mechanic, and buy from a private party. Otherwise if you’re that concerned over it, then maybe you should be buying a new car.

The LAST thing most “former owners” want is to be interrogated about the condition of a car they traded in…The LAST thing dealers want is for you to contact those owners…

So they make sure The System makes it almost impossible for you to find out who the last owner was…

There are privacy laws protecting driver information from getting into the hands of just anybody (driver’s privacy protection act of 1994 - DPPA). However, there are some circumstances where it is legal. I’m not sure if your case would apply or not, but you can have a licensed investigator check it out for you. For a pretty cheap price (under $50), you can apply for a search and they’ll ask you some basic questions to determine if your purpose falls into the legal criteria or not. I’ve used Docusearch for a license plate lookup before.

If I traded in a car, or sold it to a dealership, I would expect that dealership to protect my privacy. I think you are asking for too much. Instead, you should have the car checked out by a mechanic you are paying (to avoid conflict of interest). This should just be considered a cost of doing business when you shop for a used car, and the data you get from your mechanic is more trustworthy than what a previous owner might tell you.

Yeah, its not really public information. Whether its a current owner or previous owner, its not public. In some states you can get it from DMV by paying a fee but that’s about it. I wouldn’t want people calling me either.

You Need To Buy Your Cars From Individuals And Not From Dealers.
Many People Don’t Sell Cars Themselves, But Trade Them So That They Don’t Have People Contacting And Questioning Them. Your Idea Is Kind Of Creepy, Really.


They should not give out private information; Period. The DMV in OK will not give it out for very good reasons except to law enforcement, etc. There are too many weirdohs running around and sorting them out can be iffy at best.

The last thing I’d want is someone calling me or knocking on my door asking me about a car I had unloaded 6 months or 3 years before. If they persisted then they would find how just how crude and crass I can be.

So would you want strangers knocking on your door right in the middle of Monday Night Football or sunday dinner?