Hello 351 Is that your real name :O)
Actually there is a debate about whether the name of the former vehicle
owner is a public record. As a journalist, I know it can now be very tough
or impossible to get DMV records. I actually interviewed lots of attoneys
and officials about this recently and got conflicting answers. Privacy laws
vs. freedom of information laws.
DMV records are much more restricted these days, beginning with California
(years ago an actress or model was tracked down through DMV records and
killed or hurt, I think it was. My memory is going). The law has since
spread to the federal level via the Drivers Privacy Protection Act.
To wit: http://www.accessreports.com/statutes/DPPA1.htm
Some dealers take the position that they legally cannot show you the records
without getting permission of the owner. There is some conflicting legal
opinions on this because the federal law also requires showing the buyer the
odometer statement which can appear on the title or a separate document.
Some state laws require that you be shown the ownership documents at the
time of purchase, though it is not clear to me exactly when that is.
Obviously as a buyer of a used car, you would like to be sure the dealer has
settled any former lien and has the title in hand. But that sometimes is not
the case. Sometimes liens aren't settled until after the trade-in is resold
(very scary), sometimes not even then (imagine the repo man taking away you
new used car even though you're up to date on your payments!). So asking to
see the title is important for that reason alone.
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> The former owner's name is a matter of public record...