The Top Ways to Check a VIN Before Buying a Car

December 24, 2019

Buying a used car can save you money, but what if there’s something wrong with the car? Without knowing the car’s history, you may never know until you spend the money and call it your own. A VIN check can help you know a car’s history before you buy it, though.

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Here’s how to get a free VIN check.

National Insurance Crime Bureau

Today you can’t be too sure that a car you’re buying wasn’t stolen. Check the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s free tool to see if the car you want to buy was ever reported lost/stolen, salvaged, or claimed as a total loss by insurance.

While this site won’t tell you if a car has been in an accident. It will tell you if there is anything illegal that coincides with the car. You certainly don’t want to buy a car that was stolen or that an insurance company considered a total loss.

Try a VIN Check Site

If you have the car’s VIN, which you should, you can run it through one of the various free sites available online. Edmund’s provides a list of third-party sites that offer VIN checks that are either free or cost only a few dollars.

Pull the CARFAX

The only way to truly learn about a car’s history is to pull the CARFAX report. If you buy the car from a dealership, they should include the CARFAX report. If you buy the car from an individual, you may still have access to a free CARFAX report. CARFAX offers the report if you use the,, or CARFAX listing.

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If you can’t find access to a free CARFAX report, you can always buy the report from the CARFAX website. It’s money well spent as it will help you determine if the car has been in an accident or has serious issues that you should know about.

What is a Car’s VIN?

A car’s VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is a 17-digit number (with letters) that identifies the car. Car manufacturers, dealers, and individual buyers use the number to learn many things about a car. You can even use the VIN to find out if there have been any recalls on the car by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.

Where do you Find the VIN?

You can find the VIN on the car’s dashboard or inside the door. It’s on a white plate with a barcode. The number underneath the barcode is the VIN. You can also find it on the engine itself, if you can’t find it elsewhere. When you buy a car, though, the seller should willingly provide the VIN to you. If he or she doesn’t, it’s not a good sign and you should avoid that sale.

Always Have the Car Checked

Even if you have a car’s VIN, you should always take it to get checked by a licensed mechanic. Again, it may cost you a little money, but it’s well worth it. What if you find out something is majorly wrong with the car? You could save yourself the thousands of dollars it may cost to buy the car as well as fix it down the road.

Buying a used car can be good and scary at the same time. Make sure you have as much information as possible using the car’s VIN and any reports available to you. At the very least, having the car checked out and ensuring that it’s not a stolen or totaled car can help you make the right decision.

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