May 26, 2016

Rhode Island Vehicle Identification Numbers
Where do you get a VIN check in the state of Rhode Island?

The state of Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles has a Vehicle Title Inquiry search page which is accessible on the Internet; however, in order to use the feature you must have a RI.gov subscription. The title search available allows subscribers to access the most current records on file with the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles, for historical research or more information on a particular record you are directed to contact the Title division at 401-462-5774. You will need the VIN number of the vehicle and the cost for a title inquiry is $53.50.

In certain cities, Middletown for example, VIN checks are available for $10.00 for Middletown residents and $20.00 for VIN checks for those who are not Middletown residents. This service is provided on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Middletown Police Department. Any vehicle, 2001 model or newer, purchased outside of Rhode Island must have a VIN check completed before registering a new vehicle. You will need the following items to complete the VIN Check:

  • The vehicle;
  • Bill of Sale;
  • Title certificate or registration;
  • Your driver’s license; and
  • $10.00 check or cash.

The VIN checks are done at:

Middletown Police Department

123 Valley Mill Road

Middletown, RI 02842


In Rhode Island, the lemon law falls under the Consumer Protection Unit in the Attorney General’s Office, who can be reached at:

Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General

150 South Main Street

Providence, RI 02903


Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles Vehicle Title Inquiry:

Vehicle Title Inquiry

RI.gov Title Inquiry Application

Middletown Rhode Island Police Department VIN Check

Rhode Island Consumer Protection Unit Office of the Attorney General

Should I perform additional motor vehicle history or VIN checks on a vehicle in Rhode Island?

Yes, definitely. While it is good to know the current title information on a car, knowing the history is very important. There are quite a few companies which run VIN and/or license plate checks in the state of Rhode Island, some of which cost money and some which provide a certain number of free searches per IP address in a 24 hour period.

One of the more complete VIN checks that you can get is from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. NMVTIS is a database which provides data on cars that have been in recycling yards, junkyards, and salvage yards. They provide information in five key areas which are associated with auto fraud and theft:

  1. Current State Title and Last Title Date;
  2. Brand History – these are descriptive labels applied by motor vehicle titling agencies and include the terms “junk,” “salvage,” and “flood.” This helps protect consumers from purchasing a damaged vehicle without knowing the condition of the car. In Rhode Island, which allows consumers to purchase “rebuilt” cars, knowing the history and the “brand” of a car may save you from paying far more than a vehicle is worth or from buying a vehicle which is unsafe or has the potential to be unsafe due to its history;
  3. Odometer Reading – people have been known to “roll the odometer back” to decrease the appearance of miles on a vehicle. This makes the vehicle appear to be worth more than it is worth, and it may also cause a consumer to purchase a vehicle which is unsafe. Odometer readings are recorded at the transfer of the title, so it can be a useful tool to check for any discrepancies of the vehicle’s history;
  4. Total Loss History – when a vehicle has been declared a total loss it has had severe damage. Knowing this information could save a consumer from paying more than what the vehicle is worth or from purchasing a vehicle which is unsafe; and
  5. Salvage History – vehicles with a salvage history have had severe damage. Knowing this information could save you money or save you from purchasing a car that is unsafe.

The data reported to NMVTIS must be reported on every vehicle which they receive into inventory each month and includes:

  • The name, address, and contact information for the reporting entity;
  • VIN;
  • Date the automobile was obtained;
  • Name of the individual or entity from whom automobile was obtained (this information is only to be used by law enforcement and other government agencies);
  • A statement of whether the automobile was crushed or disposed of, offered for sale, or other purposes; and
  • Whether the vehicle is intended for export out of the United States.

The public can’t access the NTMVIS database, but you can use one of the services which can access it and you should. Some of the ones that are advertised on the NTMVIS website include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Clearvin.com
  • Vinaudit.com
  • Instavin.com
  • Titlecheck.us
  • Vinsmart.com

There is also a database, VINcheck, which is run by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and recommended by the state of Rhode Island. They provide VIN checks to the public which will tell you if the car has been reported stolen and not found, and if the vehicle has been in a salvage yard. Rhode Island also recommends using a private agency, i.e. Carfax, for a vehicle history check, conducting a physical inspection, taking the car on a test drive, and getting an independent inspection.

If you purchase a car and believe that you have been the victim of fraud you are asked to contact the National Insurance Crime Board by:

  • Texting the keyword “FRAUD” to TIP411 (847411);
  • Call 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422); or
  • Submit a form online.

Consumers can file complaints with the state of Rhode Island through the Consumer Protection Unit online or call 401-274-4400.



Consumer Protection Unit complaint form for Rhode Island

Why are VIN checks so important in Rhode Island?

VIN fraud is illegal and is a felony in both the state of Rhode Island and in the United States, and this includes when the VIN is removed during the restoration of a car. One of the best ways to not become the victim of vehicle fraud is to obtain a Vehicle History Report, which will include information such as:

  • Information on the past owners, including:
    • The number of owners the car has had; and
    • The odometer readings at the time of each change in ownership.
  • Whether there are liens on the vehicle – if you purchase a vehicle which has liens against it then you may be unwittingly assuming those loans when you buy the vehicle. This can even include liens such as child support which are tied to the owner of the car and not to the car itself;
  • Brand History – such as if the car was every used as a police car or a taxi;
  • Title and accident history – this will usually include any accident reports, information regarding whether the car was involved in a flood, whether the car has been in a salvage yard, and will also tell you the name of the legal owner of the car;
  • Odometer settings and rollback alerts – sellers of cars have been known to “rollback” the numbers on the odometer so that the car appears to have lower mileage which increases the value of the car; and
  • “Lemon” determination – a VIN check will alert you if your car has been deemed a “lemon” and been repurchased by the manufacturer.

Some VIN checks may even tell you information as specific as the dates of servicing of the vehicle or if it has previously been sold at an auction.

State of Rhode Island Lemon Law

Lemon Law in Rhode Island

The lemon law in the State of Rhode Island are found in the 2017 Rhode Island Gen. Laws § 31-5.2-1 et seq. They fall under the Consumer Protection Unit of the Department of the Attorney General. The lemon law in Rhode Island covers any “motor vehicle”, defined as an automobile, truck, motorcycle, or van with a registered gross vehicle weight of less than 10,000 pounds. The vehicle must be sold, leased or replaced by a dealer or manufacturer after May 11, 1984. The law does cover used vehicles and vehicle converters, but not motorized campers.

Rhode Island’s Lemon Law covers consumers who fall into one of these categories:

  • The buyer of the motor vehicle who is not buying it for purposes of resale;
  • Any person to whom the vehicle is transferred for the same purposes during the duration of any express or implied warranty applicable to the motor vehicle;
  • Any other person entitled by the terms of the warranty to enforce its obligations; and
  • The lessee of a motor vehicle for one year or more who is pursuant to a written lease agreement that makes the lessee responsible for repairs to the vehicle or the lessee of a motor vehicle pursuant to a lease-purchase agreement.

In effect, this means that the vehicle is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty whether it is sold or not.

For a vehicle to be covered, Rhode Island has established a term of protection ending one year or 15,000 miles after the date of the original delivery of the vehicle, whichever comes first.

Vehicles which are not covered by the Lemon Law include those which:

  • The problems or issues with the vehicle do not impact the vehicle’s use or its value; and
  • The problem is a result of neglect, abuse, or unauthorized vehicle alterations.

To qualify as a lemon in the state of Rhode Island, the vehicle must have a defect which is covered by the warranty that:

  • The manufacturer has made at least four (4) attempts to repair; OR
  • The defect has caused the vehicle to be out of service due to repairs for at least 30 cumulative days.

This is what the Attorney General calls the “Manufacturer’s Duty to Repair or Replace” and under the Rhode Island law if the manufacturer or its authorized dealer has been unable to repair the defect after a reasonable number of attempts during the term of protection (which is defined above) then you may have the right to a manufacturer’s arbitration program or court for a lemon law claim.

Once you realize that your car has a continuous problem and that attempts to fix it have been unsuccessful, you should contact the manufacturer or the authorized retailer via certified mail with return receipt and specifically state that your car is a lemon and that you want a refund or a replacement under Rhode Island’s Lemon Law. This is a necessary step as it:

  • Informs the company that there is a problem and that it is serious and allows the company an opportunity to fix the defect (after the certified letter the manufacturer gets one more chance to fix the problem); and
  • Informs the company that you will be using the lemon law if the defect is not properly repaired.

The presumption about a reasonable number of attempts does not apply unless you give the manufacturer one final opportunity to cure any nonconformity that arose during the term of protection, even if the additional opportunity occurs after the term of protection expires. This additional opportunity many not exceed seven (7) calendar days and begins on the day the manufacturer known or should have known that the terms of the “presumption of reasonable number of repairs” have been met.

If the manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement procedure that complies with 16 C.F.R. Part 703, or that has been approved by the Rhode Island Attorney General, then the provisions requiring the manufacturer to refund or replace do not apply unless the consumer has first resorted to the informal dispute settlement procedure. The consumer has the option of initiation a request for arbitration with the independent procedure provided by the Attorney General or the Better Business Bureau also has an arbitration procedure which also complies with 16 C.F.R. Part 703.

You can file a request for arbitration with the Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board with the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit or you can go to the Auto Arbitration Line of the Better Business Bureau which also handles Lemon Law Complaints and has an informal dispute settlement procedure. The manufacturers who participate in the program run by the Better Business Bureau in Rhode Island include:

  • Audi, Bentley, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC Truck, Hyundai, Indian Motorcycle, Infiniti, Kia, Land Rover, Lincoln, Lotus, Mazda, Mercury, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, smart USA, and Volkswagen.

If you decide to sue then you must file the suit within three years of the date of the original delivery of the vehicle. If you participate in a manufacturer’s arbitration program then you have six months to appeal in court while the company has only 30 days.

Rhode Island State Lemon Law Information

hode Island Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board

Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board of the Office of the Attorney General Request Form

Do you need to hire an attorney for a lemon law case in Rhode Island?

While it is not necessary to hire an attorney for a lemon law case, it may be a wise decision depending on the amount of time that you are able to commit to fighting a large company and your knowledge of the law and the legal system. If you do not have an attorney, the Rhode Island Bar Association is a good place to begin and they have a lawyer referral service.

You are searching for an attorney who:

  • Seek experienced attorneys – A Rhode Island lawyer who specializes in lemon law cases will have specialized knowledge in relevant Rhode Island laws and procedures;
  • Comes highly recommended – ask friends and family if they know any good attorneys. Ask for a recommendation from people you know who may have worked with lemon law lawyers before;
  • Schedule a consultation – book a free consultation with a few lemon law attorneys so that you can learn more about them and their experience; and
  • Ask about their fees – Make sure that you understand how much the attorney charges and when you will be expected to pay (up front, installments, after the case, or do they take the case on a contingency basis?)

    Rhode Island State Bar Association

    Rhode Island State Bar Association Attorney Referral Service

What are some of the benefits of hiring an attorney for a lemon law case?

It is important to remember that the manufacturer of the car and the dealers will have legal experts on their side and you might want the same kind of expertise on your side. A lawyer will represent you in court, but they will also:

  • Explain the lemon law in the state of Rhode Island to you and help you to understand both the process and the possible outcomes;
  • Help you to gather all the necessary documents;
  • Help to ensure that the manufacturer is treating you fairly;
  • Help save you time by handling the communication and other actions on your behalf; and
  • Help you to navigate the courts and the legal terms.
Rhode Island DMV
Department of Motor Vehicles
600 New London Ave
1 401-462-4368
Closed now

Westerly DMV
Department of Motor Vehicles
45 Broad St
1 401-315-5608
Closed today

Middletown Branch DMV Office
Department of Motor Vehicles
52 Valley Rd
1 401-846-5451
Closed now

Department of Motor Vehicles – Warren
Department of Motor Vehicles
1 Joyce St
1 401-245-6957
Closed today

DMV Wakefield Branch
Department of Motor Vehicles
4808 Tower Hill Rd
1 401-789-1430
Closed now

Woonsocket DMV
Department of Motor Vehicles
217 Pond St
1 401-235-1232
Closed now

Warren Dmv
Department of Motor Vehicles
1 Joyce St

Pawtucket DMV
Department of Motor Vehicles
100 Main St
1 401-462-4368
Permanently closed

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