How to Trace a Car's VIN

by Louise Balle

A VIN (vehicle identification number) is a unique 17-digit identifier for a car in the United States. No two cars within 30 years of each other should have the same VIN. There are several good reasons why you might need to trace a car's VIN. Maybe there is an abandoned car on your block and you need to find out who owns it. Meter readers use this number to match a license plate number to a car. If you want to check out the full vehicle history of a car, you can find out this information with the VIN.

Locate the car's VIN number. It is usually located on the top left of the front dashboard on the car. Be sure to copy it down exactly as shown---if you are one digit off, you will not be able to do a trace.

Trace the vehicle's VIN using Autocheck. This is a service powered by Experian--the credit report bureau--and is the official report of NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association). Enter in the 17-digit number under "Get a Free VIN Check." You will get basic information about the car. If you want more detailed information, you must purchase a full report. The cost is about $25 for unlimited reports (60 days), and $15 for one report.

Go to CarFax to look up the VIN. CarFax is well known throughout the car buying and selling community for providing vehicle history reports. The cost is $40 for unlimited reports for 30 days and $30 for one report.

Visit the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau---see direct link to website below) if you need to check to see if a car was reported stolen or salvaged. This is a free service; you can do five VIN checks per day.

Find out basic information about the vehicle, such as manufacturer, year and the make and model at DecodeThis.com. The VIN number is made of several short codes that identify the vehicle.

Tip

  • check Always trace the VIN when you are buying a used car. This can give you information about the previous owners, the condition of vehicle, whether or not it was involved in a catastrophe or major accident and how often it was serviced.

Warning

  • close If you come across an abandoned vehicle with the VIN number covered up or scratched out, there is a high likelihood that it has been stolen. Car thieves don't want the vehicle to be traced.

About the Author

Louise Balle has been writing Web articles since 2004, covering everything from business promotion to topics on beauty. Her work can be found on various websites. She has a small-business background and experience as a layout and graphics designer for Web and book projects.