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Vehicle identification numbers (VINs) are ID numbers that track the life of a motor vehicle or ATV, including whether the vehicle has any loans – also called liens – attached to it. Research using a VIN can also reveal accidents, tickets and repair work.
Lien holders place liens on vehicles and ATVs usually to secure a loan for the vehicle itself. However, sometimes liens are placed on vehicles when an owner has not paid taxes on the vehicle. If you need to find out if an ATV has any liens on it, all you need is a VIN.
Get your papers together
Collect all the information you have about the ATV. If the ATV is yours, you need to collect all ownership documents, including a purchase and sale agreement and loan agreement (if applicable). Of course, make sure you have the accurate VIN. This identity number will contain both numbers and letters.
The VIN's location on an ATV depends on the vehicle's manufacturer, but usually you can find it on the left side of the frame, under the shifter. It's a 17-digit number, where each character represents a part of the ATV's history: where it was built; who the manufacturer is; its brand, engine size and type; its manufacturer authorization; its model year; which plant assembled the ATV; and the vehicle's unique serial number.
Visit the DMV
Before making the trip to the DMV, contact the owner of the ATV, if you do not own the vehicle. You will need to get the owner's or borrower's consent to check the ATV title at the DMV. These documents are not a matter of public records, like property liens. It's best to have the owner come with you to the DMV.
Now, visit your local DMV office. Make sure you have copies of a signed authorization to review personal ownership information, if the owner cannot come with you. If you own the vehicle, make sure you have copies of all of your ownership documents.
Speak with a DMV representative. Give her the documents related to the ATV, included the VIN.
Do your homework
The DMV representative should be able to pull up the ATV's history records fairly quickly. You and the ATV's owner can both ask about outstanding liens on the vehicle and get a copy of the title report for the ATV.
This should reveal whether there's a lien on the ATV. If there is one and it's not valid, contact the lien holder. You will need a lien discharge for the DMV to remove this lien.
Items you will need
Proof of identity (photo ID)
Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.