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The Importance of a Car Lien Search Before Buying a Vehicle in Alberta

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Buying a used vehicle is an exciting venture, but it has risks. One way to protect yourself is to conduct a car lien search. This search can be the difference between a smooth transaction and unforeseen complications down the road. Here’s what you need to know about this aspect of used car buying.

What’s a Lien Search?

A lien is a legal, financial claim attached to a vehicle. If a car has a lien, it means that money is still owed to lenders, a bank, mechanics, or the government. A lien remains registered on the Personal Property System until the lien holder receives the amount owing and removes the lien. When a vehicle is leased, it cannot be registered to a new owner with a lease release letter, but if it is financed, a new owner can still register the vehicle. This is why it is important to do a lien search prior to buying a used vehicle to make sure there are no financial claims on your vehicle. Unfortunately, unscrupulous dealers or sellers can still try to sell you a vehicle with a lien attached. It’s up to you to verify that the car you’re buying is lien-free.

Why Should You Conduct a Car Lien Search?

Conducting a lien search before buying a used car can avoid legal and financial complications. Here’s why this step is so essential:

  • Protect your wallet. A hidden lien could mean you inherit the car’s debt, potentially thousands of dollars you didn’t bargain for.

  • Avoid legal hassles. Buying a car with an existing lien can lead to legal complications, including repossession and lawsuits that will remain on your permanent record.

  • Gain peace of mind. Knowing the car is free and clear lets you confidently enjoy your purchase.

How to Conduct a Car Lien Search in Alberta

The good news is conducting a car lien search in Alberta is straightforward. Here are your options:

  • Alberta Registry Agent. Visit your nearest registry agent office and provide the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). They can access the Personal Property Registry and reveal any registered liens for a fee.

  • Online services. Several websites offer online lien searches for a similar fee.

  • Third-party providers. Some organizations offer vehicle history reports that include lien information, often bundled with other vehicle details.

Key Considerations

Here are some things to keep in mind about buying a used vehicle and liens:

  • Sellers are legally obligated to disclose liens to potential buyers. Ask the seller to provide a lien-free statement and a written agreement that they’ll pay all outstanding debts, fines and penalties associated with the vehicle.

  • Don’t rely solely on basic vehicle history reports. These may not include all liens, especially recent ones.

  • Alberta lien searches provide information on liens registered only in this province. You can use CARFAX Canada to obtain a full lien and history report for other provinces or territories. The CARFAX report also includes an accident history, as well as recall information.

Car Lien Search Services in Calgary, Alberta

At Registry @ South Trail Crossing Ltd., we provide various services for searches and registrations of personal property in Alberta. Contact us today before you make an offer on a used vehicle and let us help you confidently make your purchase.


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