We’ve quite possibly all thought about this. That favourite car that you sold years ago. Your mum and dad’s car that you learned to drive in. The car your kids came home from the hospital in. Where are they now?
Where do I start looking for my old car?
You can find out, at least up to a point, but you will eventually run into a wall of data privacy. If you’re intent on tracking down a car that you used to own, the first place to start is the Government’s Vehicle Enquiry Service. This is part of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and it’s pretty simple — just enter the registration number in a box, and up will pop the details. You can find out if it’s currently taxed and MOT’d, whether it’s the same colour you remember it being, and its basic engine and CO2 emissions details.
What you won’t be able to find out is precisely where the car is, nor who owns it, for data privacy reasons. If you pay for a private history and background check — from such as Motorcheck or HPI — you’ll get a few more details, such as whether there are outstanding finance payments owed against the car, and how many owners it’s had since you last saw it, but again personal details are not up for grabs.
Want to go further?
So, assuming that you want to know more — maybe you want to buy the car back, or have just remembered that your dad stashed some gold bullion in the spare wheel well — you’re going to have to do some detective work.
A good source of information is the DriveArchive (drivearchive.co.uk). This is a database of vehicle details, and even photographs and all of the information and data has been voluntarily uploaded by vehicle owners, so there are no significant privacy issues. The site is free to use.
If the car you’re looking for is a classic car, then it’s time to get onto the owner’s club. There are owners clubs for even the most supposedly ordinary and (you’d think) unloved of cars. Yes, even the Austin Allegro. If your car has survived, then there’s a good chance that the club might know of it, or know someone who knows. You might even be able to get an introduction to the current owner if you’re lucky. If it’s something really rare and valuable, then your chances of finding out its current whereabouts are even better — not only are such vehicles more likely to be preserved, but some of the owners’ clubs actually keep proper records of members’ vehicles.
Social media is a good source, too. If you’ve got some original photos of the car you want to track down, get sharing them — and any details you can remember about the car — on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Ask the dealer
Finally, if the car was traded into a particular garage or dealership, you could try getting in touch with them, and asking them to put the current owner in contact with you. Obviously, this would be entirely on a voluntary basis — a garage isn’t beholden to give you such details, indeed they’re prevented from doing so by data privacy laws — but if you have a compelling reason to track the car down (dad’s gold bullion stash…) then they might well be helpful.