How to Get Free Car History Using the VIN

by Elizabeth Chaplin

Every car has a vehicle identification number, or VIN. This number is very useful if you are purchasing a used car. Through the VIN, you can find out if the car has been in any accidents, has been salvaged, flooded or reported as stolen. Many companies, like Carfax and, supply consumers with information regarding their used cars by searching the VIN. Unfortunately, a completely free, full vehicle history report is hard to come by. However, basic accident and theft information can be found using the VIN number. It is also important to ask questions before making your purchase.

Approach the seller of the car with questions regarding the car's history first. Ask questions about previous owners, type of usage and any maintenance done on the car. Make sure to obtain the car's VIN.

Go to the National Insurance Crime Bureau website. Under "Theft and Fraud Awareness," click on "VinCheck."

Enter the 17-digit VIN into the designated box, and check the box to agree to the Terms and Conditions of Use.

Retype the verification code provided and click "Search." A basic overview of your vehicle will appear, informing you if the car has been reported as stolen or is in VinCheck's total-loss or accident records. The basic overview is free; for a more detailed history, click on the link for Carfax or Autocheck provided. A fee is required for more detail.


  • check Order a vehicle history report from the Department of Justice's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. The report only costs about $4 and provides very accurate information about damage history and other data.
  • check Bring the VIN and other vehicle information--make, model and year--to your state's motor vehicle department to research the car.

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