How to Obtain a Certificate of Origin for an Old Vehicle

By Max Power - Updated June 16, 2017
Young Couple Trip With Vintage Car

A vehicle’s certificate of origin is a document that comes from the vehicle’s manufacturer. The vehicle dealer usually provides it to the state department of motor vehicles when he sells you the car. This document is a legally requirement in several states for the registration of a new vehicle. These states keep the certificate of origin and subsequently issue a title to the vehicle to the new owner.

Assemble the necessary data for properly identifying the vehicle. This includes the vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model and description of the vehicle, current odometer reading and any available bill of sale for the vehicle.

Locate the dealer who originally sold the vehicle. The dealer is responsible for legal custody of the certificate of origin. If the dealer does not have a copy on file, request that he contact the vehicle’s manufacturer to obtain a copy. If you do not know the name of the original dealer, you may choose to a vehicle title history search service such as CarFax.com, Carproof.com or AutoCheck.com to locate the original owner.

Contact the state department of motor vehicles or equivalent agency in the state where the vehicle got its first title. It is here that the original certificate of origin may have originally been filed by the dealer when the car was first purchased. Request that the motor vehicle department provide you with a copy of the certificate on file with them, or direct you to the proper location to receive a copy. This step is only necessary if the dealer was unable to locate the certificate for you.

Tip

Depending on the requirements in your state, the certificate of origin may not be necessary in order to register an older vehicle. For instance, in New Hampshire, you don't need a certificate of origin for vehicles manufactured prior to 1995. Check with your state department of motor vehicles for guidance specific to your state.

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles advises vehicle owners that they can file complaints against a dealer if he refuses to provide a certificate of origin.

About the Author

Max Power started writing in 1996. Power was responsible for providing coverage of local and state governmental affairs for a web-boom-era news and civic-affairs news website. This experience provided him with a range of in-depth knowledge about legal, civic, political and governmental affairs. Power holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in history.

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