You have a better chance of finding a reliable used car if you know its history before you buy. Starting with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will give you a good idea of what to look for. It is possible to trace a car's history from the day it was built using its VIN.
It can be decoded to determine where and when a vehicle was built, as well as details about its safety equipment, engine displacement, and other details. Every new vehicle sold in the United States since the 1950s has been assigned a unique 17-digit alphanumeric code called a VIN.
As with an SSN, a VIN can reveal a lot about a vehicle's history and secrets. It may have been involved in collisions or floods in the past, stolen, or had recalls or service bulletins that needed to be addressed. Additionally, you can find information about where the car has previously been registered, giving you an idea of regional characteristics, such as whether it has spent time in a harsh climate where road salt has likely caused corrosion.
In the case of used cars, a VIN check is imperative as it will tell you if the car has a salvage or branded title, i.e., if the car is a totaled vehicle because of extensive damage caused by an accident, flood, or another event, according to Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars. "Avoiding cars with salvage or branded titles will save consumers some major ownership headaches."
Free VIN Checks
Some of this information can be found for free, which is a great benefit. You can gather information from various sources for a modest fee if willing to pay for a deeper dive. In a matter of seconds, these sites offer detailed reports based on the VIN and credit card information you enter. A quick look at some of the better options is provided below.
With EpicVin, you can discover useful information such as recalls, safety ratings, original specifications, warranties, and more. Aside from vehicle specifications, the site provides information about fuel economy, user reviews, and similar vehicles for sale in your area. EpicVin tells you when and where a car goes up for sale and its list price, sale price, and part and component status.
Why do you need a VIN check before buying a vehicle?
- To avoid buying a stolen car
A person who knowingly possesses stolen property is guilty of aiding theft and may be punished by jail time if convicted.
In some small towns, you may be able to avoid jail time if you can prove that you purchased a stolen car from the seller without knowing it was stolen. This is rare, but it will happen if your reputation precedes you and people trust you.
If you don't get jail time, you will still have lost the money you spent on the car. This is a considerable loss, especially if you bought a pre-owned vehicle because you couldn't afford a new one.
- Check the VIN of a vehicle to avoid getting scammed
It is important to research the vehicle before buying it. Do not take the word of the seller for it. People lie to get by these days. People have forged titles, cloned vehicle identification numbers, tampered with a car's odometer, sold buyers defective titles and moved vehicles from state to state to conceal details about the vehicles they intend to sell.
To avoid buying a bad car, check the VIN before making payment.
It is always a good idea to visit the DMV with the seller. You can process all the paperwork there, so everything will be verified before you take possession of the vehicle.
If you can't visit the DMV with the seller, make sure you have a copy of their driver's license, your title papers, or any proof of payment.