A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique code used to identify a specific vehicle. VINs in the United States have 17 characters unless the vehicle in question was manufactured before 1981.
When buying used cars, people should use their VIN to get a free vehicle history report that will verify the following:
- When the vehicle was manufactured
- Whether the vehicle was stolen
- If the vehicle has a clear title and is not being used as loan collateral
- If parts from different cars have been combined into one
- Whether the vehicle has been in a severe accident before
When buying a used vehicle at a US dealership, you should do a VIN check before driving off with your shiny new toy.
A VIN check is the process of reviewing a vehicle’s history by analyzing the data obtained from its VIN. Carrying out this check will save you from being scammed or sold a car with unresolved issues.
Vehicle manufacturers assign every vehicle they produce a VIN so buyers can identify their brand, year of production, model, maintenance history, and any other vital information about it. This applies to all kinds of vehicles in the United States.
As mentioned earlier, every car has a VIN, the same way everyone has a social security number. However, they are not always written in the same place in every vehicle. While at a dealership, you can ask the seller to show you the VIN of the car you want to buy.
If you want to find it yourself, look under the hood in front of the engine, on the windshield at the driver’s side, and the jamb of the driver’s side door. Most car manufacturers write the VIN of their vehicles in one of those three places.
Some companies offer VIN checks. The service is usually free, but sometimes requires payment.
Free VIN checks will give you basic information about the car linked to that number. You can use that information to make your purchase. However, paid VIN checks provide more detailed information than what is obtainable in a free report.
There are many free VIN check companies in the United States, but some are better than others. Here is our list of the best free VIN check companies.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau is a non-profit organization that fights vehicle theft and insurance fraud with investigations, public awareness, and information analysis.
With the NICB VIN check, you can find out if the car you want was stolen or if it has a salvage title. You can also see whether it had been in an accident or suffered severe damage in the past.
2. Kelley Blue Book
KBB is a well-recognized solutions provider for car sellers and buyers. Their website has about 20 million visitors monthly, primarily used to value used cars.
As part of their used car valuation services, Kelley Blue Book allows people to perform VIN checks on cars they want to buy to see if a recall notice has been issued for the car, if it is a salvage vehicle, or if its theft has been reported to law enforcement.
3. Vehicle History
A VIN check on their website will give you a free vehicle history report. This includes, but is not limited to, the car’s specifications, safety recall data, manufacture and sales information, and many more historical events related to the vehicle.
This company allows car buyers to check the history of the vehicle they want. Their free VIN check uses the DMV database to get the title information of the car to ensure that it is not being used as loan collateral.
iSeeCars also allow buyers to see the market value of the car they want and whether a recall has been demanded of it.
This is another free platform where users can access information about any vehicle by providing its VIN. This service allows users to confirm vehicle mileage, verify its rightful owner, discover unreported damages, and view its safety and maintenance history.
Aside from cars, they also specialize in RV VIN lookups, so people can make informed choices when buying a used RV.
This company has access to an extensive database of vehicle records. Fortunately, they let car buyers perform VIN checks for free and get a report. With the information in the report, they will save themselves from getting a bad deal.
When preparing the report, CarVertical checks for mileage rollbacks, damages, ownership changes, safety recalls, old images of the car, and theft records.
Users can either input or scan a VIN on their website to ensure they are not making a mistake when buying a car. This company sources data from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).
The body aims to protect car buyers from unsafe vehicles and fraud. VIN checks on their website are always accurate and will save you from buying a stolen vehicle.
Related: You can make your car an asset instead of liability by using some driving apps.
Cebia sources vehicle history data from more than 20 countries and has successfully run VIN checks for over 750,000 vehicles.
Their VIN check is free and will enlighten people on the mileage, service history, past damages, possible theft, and whether the car they want was previously used as a taxi.
This company allows you to look up any car’s history and get a report by entering either its VIN or license plate. Their free report includes vehicle insurance, loss records, DMV title history, odometer rollback alerts, ownership history, safety calls, and more.
ClearVIN also lets you know what a car is worth before you pay for it. This ensures you are getting a fair deal on your purchase.
You can opt for a paid VIN check if you want something more detailed than a free vehicle history report. Here are some of the best companies that require payment for you to do a VIN check.
Carfax operates internationally, allowing US residents access to the vehicle history of cars driven abroad. Although there is a carfax free VIN check, you can pay for a more detailed report.
Their services are priced at $39.99, $59.99, and $99.99, but the cost to you depends on the number of in-depth reports you need.
This company can help you validate a used car’s statistics and learn more about its history than what a car dealer tells you.
Many used cars being sold are unsafe, so VINCheckPro allows you to access millions of salvage, loss, and junk car records to know you are not getting a previously discarded car.
With their VIN check, you can discover odometer rollback scams, hidden damages, title status, whether the car was used as a tax or for police work, and more.
After your first free report, a subsequent one will cost you $6.95. But if you want to pay for five at once, it will cost you $12.95.
If you want a basic vehicle history report, Autocheck will give you one for free. In the report, you will find the car manufacturer, country of production, model, and a few other things.
But when you pay, you will learn if your car suffered flood damage, was stolen, was involved in an accident, and so on.
The car will even be assigned a score so that you can compare it to the same model car produced in the same year to know how your vehicle has fared compared to them.
AutoCheck’s paid report costs $24.99 for a single vehicle’s history report, and five reports cost $49.99.
What Else to Know When Buying a Used Car
Cars are expensive but essential purchases, so there needs to be much thought and careful consideration before you buy one.
Cars at US dealerships are generally in good condition, but you cannot be too sure, so you should thoroughly examine any vehicle before you buy it.
If you rush a car purchase, you may regret it just months later because you might not have discovered a major fault at the dealership.
That negligence can make you spend thousands of dollars repairing the car and putting it in normal working condition. Do a VIN check at all costs to get details on the vehicle’s history before paying for it.
The following tips can help you avoid making a costly mistake:
- Ensure the odometer still works.
- Do not ignore any corrosion or leak in the car.
- Verify that all lights are working.
- Check if the belts and hoses work as they are supposed to.
- Test drive the vehicle and make sure the brakes work.
- Inspect the tires for wear and tear.
- Listen for weird noises when you drive, brake, or make turns.
- Examine the transmission dipstick. If the fluid is not colored red or pink, then something is wrong.
Related: When you have finally gotten your car with no issue, you might want to use it to advertise and get paid.
VIN checks are vital when you want to buy a new car. It would be best if you did not skip it. Fortunately, many companies with online platforms allow you to access a vehicle history report for free.
Also, some VIN check companies provide in-depth premium reports for customers that are willing to pay for them.
Related: Best Places To Buy Cheap Shoes.