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How to find an old car

Last updated July 20, 2023

If you’ve owned several cars in your lifetime, you might find yourself wondering what became of your previous motors. Perhaps you’re curious about who owns them now – or whether they are still even on the road.

Whether you want to know about a vehicle you owned five years ago, 10 years ago – or even your very first car, there are steps you can take to piece together the answers.

In this guide, we will cover the various tools, services and methods at your disposal to help you find a car from your past. We’ll also explain the law concerning tracing old vehicles, including what information companies and services can and cannot provide.

Have you ever found yourself wondering “Where is my old car now?” - or “Can I find my old car?” Take a look at our tips below and you might find the answers you’re looking for.

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What is the law when looking for an old car?

Certain legal restrictions apply when it comes to looking for an old car.

For obvious privacy reasons, you won’t be able to find out the exact location of the vehicle or the details of the current owner.

Even companies offering paid private background checks must observe GDPR regulations - and therefore will not be able to release any specific identifying information about the vehicle’s owner.

If you do somehow discover personal details about the current owner of your old car, you should refrain from contacting them. This could make them feel uncomfortable (or as if they’ve had their privacy compromised).

Will the DVLA tell me who owns a car?

You can request information about your old vehicle from the DVLA using a V888 request form, which can be filled out online. This form (which is generally used to help people find the registered keeper of a vehicle) will allow you to request information about the vehicle or its owner.

Keep in mind that there is no guarantee the DVLA will provide you with this information. (They consider these requests on case-by-case basis.) However, requesting information about your old vehicle through the DVLA is certainly worth a try.

Check whether your car is still on the road

If you are looking for a car from some years ago, it’s worth checking whether the vehicle is even still on the road.

The good news is that the process for doing so is very straightforward. With webuyanycar’s free car check and car tax check tools, you can find out whether your old vehicle holds a valid MOT certificate - and whether it is currently taxed.

This can be done in a matter of seconds and offers a good starting point for your old car search. Keep in mind that if these checks return no results, there is a good chance that the vehicle is no longer on the road.

If this is the case, the most recent owner may also have made a SORN (Statutory Off-road Notification) for the vehicle – or scrapped it.

Tips for finding out where your old car is

  • Social media

    You can use social media to your advantage by searching for your old reg number on Facebook. If you’re lucky, one or more images featuring your car and its registration number might pop up.

    This method isn’t foolproof and will only work if the user has set the images to ‘public’. However, it only takes seconds, so it’s worth a try!

    You could also make a post explaining that you are looking for information about the car, including the make, model and other details that will help identify it. You never know who might see it.

  • Contact the dealership

    If you sold the car to a dealership, you could get in touch with them and enquire about what happened to the vehicle afterwards. Of course, there are limitations to taking this route. First of all, if you sold your car to the dealership several years ago, they might not have any record of this.

    What’s more, they cannot give you any specific information about the owner due to GDPR. However, they may be able to tell you whether the vehicle was sold (and when this happened) - and perhaps a few vague details regarding the buyer.

  • Car owners’ clubs

    Car owners' clubs can be found on online forums, across social media - and even locally. It’s worth sharing the details of your search with members, alongside any photographs of the vehicle to see if anyone has any potential leads for you.

    This could be a very effective approach if you are looking for a classic car – or any model that is particularly beloved by car enthusiasts.

  • Online resources

    There are online resources outside of the DVLA that may hold information about your vehicle, such as DriveArchive - a website containing a large database of past and present vehicles (with details about them supplied by genuine site visitors).

    Keep in mind, there is no guarantee that the vehicle you are searching for will be one of the thousands on record - or that any existing record will contain information that could help you in your search, but it’s always worth a look.

    Our guide to finding how many previous owners a car has had explains some of the methods at your disposal for piecing together your vehicle’s history. You can also use our free car check tool to find out how many previous owners your vehicle has had. Simply enter its reg number to find out in an instant!

  • Create an advert for the wanted vehicle

    Why not go the traditional route and create an advert to promote your search?

    This could be as simple as putting together a poster with key details about the vehicle, along with an appeal for information. You could even offer a reward for information that leads to a definitive update on your old car.

    However, make sure you clarify that you are searching for the car for personal reasons. If those who see the advert believe you are searching for legal reasons, you risk getting yourself (or the current owner) in trouble.

  • Google your reg number

    This might seem like an obvious tip - but try googling your registration number if you haven’t already. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find a car owner by registration number alone but there could be some interesting potential leads hidden within the many search results.

What to do if you’ve found your car

What you do once you’ve found the car you are searching for is entirely up to you.

Perhaps you were merely curious about where your old pride and joy has ended up – or maybe you are genuinely interested in buying it back if there is an opportunity to do so.

No matter what your plan, if you are successful in your search, you should show your appreciation to anyone who has helped you along the way.