Used car / lien report on carfax

Hello, I am interested in purchasing a used car and was looking at the carfax. It says a “lien reported” in 2003 but it doesn’t say anything about it being resolved. The registration was renewed every year after so it was still being driven and everything seems to have been in order. I asked the dealer over the phone and he said to me it was resolved… I asked for it in writing and he told me that it was resolved when the title was transferred. Is that true or should I be worried / avoid the car?

AFAIK it’s my understanding that a car’s title belongs to the lienholder, in most cases a bank or other financing institution, so if the dealership is holding the title then the lien must have been resolved.

Thank you for the information. The dealer did tell me that they have the title so perhaps it was resolved. I’ve never used carfax before, I just assumed I should see a “lien resolved” type note in that specific section of the report.

The trouble with Carfax is that it’s totally dependent on garages/financial institutions/government agencies to report and only some of them do, and some only do it intermittently. It’s handy for detecting things like odometer rollbacks and “cleaned” salvage titles, but it isn’t a definitive vehicle history. I wouldn’t discount the car just because of that seemingly unresolved item, but I would definitely give it a little more scrutiny.

The procedures for liens and vehicle titles are wildly different from state to state, so this is really a question with 51 answers. Just because the dealer has a clear title in hand does not necessarily mean there’s no lien-- think of things like mechanic’s liens where obviously the lienholder usually can’t get their hands on the actual title. If I were you, I’d call whatever agency you go to to transfer the title and ask them how to check for liens. If you’re in a state where the dealer usually handles it, actually call the agency’s office. They should be able to just tell you over the phone if the car has a lien in their database, although this might not discount an out-of-state lien.

Like I said above, I wouldn’t be too worried, but be sure to do your due diligence since you know the lien existed once. And if the dealer is being evasive, just walk away.