How to Run a VIN Check

Every vehicle has a unique Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, and the number is stamped in various locations in the vehicle. In the United States, the VIN contains 17 characters, both letters and numbers. With the VIN, you can find out a vehicle's history, whether the title or odometer has been altered, or if it has been stolen or involved in a flood or accident. Various online services will run a VIN check for you. These sites generally charge a fee for this service.

Locate the VIN number that you want checked. If you are considering purchasing a car, ask the dealer or check the car's Internet listing. The easiest place to locate a VIN on a car is on the dashboard. Look through the windshield while standing outside the car. You will see a metal plate with a series of numbers and letters stamped into it on the driver's side of the vehicle. Make note of the number on a piece of paper.

Check to see whether the car has been stolen by running the VIN number at The National Insurance Crime Bureau website, listed in the references. This database contains records for the past five years of stolen and unrecovered cars or those that have been declared salvage. There is no charge for this VIN check.

Use online VIN checkers to find out whether the vehicle has been in a flood or accident or the odometer has been tampered with. Checkmycar.com, autocheck.com and carfax.com offer full VIN checks and charge fees for the service. Enter the VIN in the space provided on the companies' websites.

Pay for the VIN report with a credit or debit card, as instructed on the website.

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Things Needed

  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Credit or debit card

About the Author

Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.

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