Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri, 

Since we’ve bought a used car from a South Dakota dealer 18 months ago, we’ve received a number of letters and calls from private companies offering to sell us extended warranties. I don’t mind the contacts, but how do companies know about the vehicle we’ve purchased? The dealer claimed they do not sell or give away our information. Does the North Dakota DMV sell or give away information regarding who has recently purchased vehicles? If they do sell it, how much does the state make from giving out this information?


Eric Pederson

Fort Ransom, N.D.

Thanks for writing! The Motor Vehicle Division has a form that allows people to request vehicle information. The form asks for the identity of the person requesting the information and what information is requested.

The fee is $3 per vehicle or $3 per search if nothing is found.

I contacted Jamie Olson at the North Dakota Department of Transportation. Here’s what she said:

“The North Dakota Department of Transportation follows the state’s Century Code for all requested information from motor vehicle records. The information is outlined in the N.D. Century Code Chapter 39-33.

“To protect the public from unwarranted intrusion, there are restrictions on who can get what information and for what purpose the information can be used. The process to obtain this information begins with filling out a form that can be located on the North Dakota Department of Transportation site. This form must be completed to ensure a valid and documented reason is provided before the release of any information.

“North Dakota law prohibits the disclosure of personal information from the Motor Vehicle Division’s records except to people that meet one or more of the exceptions that are listed on the form. As you will notice on the form, the individual or organization must sign the request to provide signatory validation of the request as lawful and necessary for their intended purpose.

“Thank you for writing into the North Dakota Department of Transportation.”

To expand on this, the form states the following (and contains much of the wording of the state law cited above):

“North Dakota law prohibits the disclosure of personal information from the records of the Motor Vehicle Division except to persons or entities that meet one or more of the exceptions listed below. Personal information is defined as the name or address of vehicle owners.”

There are a dozen exceptions listed on the form, including:

“For use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private person acting on behalf of a government agency in carrying out its functions.

“For use in connections with matters of motor vehicle or driver safety and theft; motor vehicle emissions; motor vehicle product alterations, recalls or advisories; performance monitoring of motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts and dealers; motor vehicle market research activities, including survey research; and removal of nonowner records from the original owner records of motor vehicle manufacturers.

“For any use specifically authorized by law that is related to the operation of a motor vehicle or public safety.”

Olson said they filled approximately 900 requests for vehicle information last year.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.