Any vehicle manufactured since 1981 comes with a unique, 17-digit vehicle identification number or VIN. In buying and selling vehicles, the term "VIN" has come to mean a report based on the VIN. You can get a vehicle summary using the VIN at several websites, including manufacturers. Some companies compile "Vehicle History Reports" using the VIN with information from insurance companies, towing companies and repair shops. The companies charge for these reports, but that doesn't mean you have to pay for them yourself.
Decode your VIN for free at angelfire.com. Each of the 17 digits of the VIN has a significant meaning. Click on the link for each digit to decode the country, manufacturer, various equipment codes, the model, year, manufacturing plant and serial number, along with a security check digit to see if the number is fraudulent.
Enter your VIN into the space provided at dvm.org. Click on "Search" to get a summary of your vehicle information and the number of vehicle history reports available. There is not a charge for the summary, but the site will offer various options to purchase a Vehicle History Report. You have no obligation to do so.
Ask the dealer selling a used car for a Vehicle History Report. If they don't have one available, tell them that you are not interested in buying a car without a report. Many dealers or sellers will then make the investment.
Tips & Warnings
- Visit your vehicle manufacturer's website to find a VIN decoder. Most manufacturers offer this service for free, but will not give you a Vehicle History Report.
- Find the VIN on the dashboard close to the windshield on the driver's side, on the registration card or on the title.
- If you think someone is showing you a fake or altered Vehicle History Report printout, ask to see it online. This will help you identify the source of the document. This also will help you decide whether you should possibly report the seller for providing falsified information, or at the very least, whether you should buy the vehicle.
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