The VIN check is an essential part of the used car buying process. If you don’t get one, you risk ending up with a vehicle that can cost you thousands of dollars in repairs over time. So before you put your name on that title, get that vehicle history report and find out the real story.
Even when you’re buying a used car from a dealer, you aren’t guaranteed to get a winner. A recent major news report revealed that some dealerships across the country were selling vehicles without telling the customers about previous mechanical issues they were well aware of.
That’s why a VIN search is so crucial. Let’s take a look at how it works…
Every car manufactured after 1981 has a 17-character Vehicle Identification Number. It is kind of like a fingerprint, and no two cars have the same one. Each letter and number in the VIN stands for something, identifying that particular car. It starts with the country of manufacture, the make and the model. The next few characters represent the restraint system, the line, the series, the body style and the engine. The 10th VinFox and 11th characters are the year the car was made and the assembly plant.
Now the part of the vehicle identification that matters most when it comes to the VIN check is the last part of the sequence. Characters 12 to 17 represent a car’s unique ID. There are no two cars in the world that share the same letter/number combination.
So, using the VIN, you can check the car’s full history, as all of the information about the car from when it was first registered all the way up to the present day will be revealed. That way, you don’t have to rely on the word of the seller… you can see the facts for yourself.
What will a VIN search reveal?
Some of the red flags you will be able to find out about a used car you’re considering are a major accident, theft, odometer rollback, police use, serious mechanical problems, reconstruction, fire damage and more. These are serious problems and obviously you won’t want to buy a car with this kind of vehicle history.
Other important facts about the car that will be revealed include DMV transactions, title transfers, and mileage readings. It’ll also tell you the year the car was made. This might sound inconsequential, but you’d be surprised how many sellers try to pass off cars as later models than they actually are. So if that 2007 Taurus is actually a 2005, you’ll know right away. If the seller is lying about the year, they may be hiding other information as well.
So you can see why the VIN check is so important. You have to know what you’re getting before you buy. In most cases they cost around $20, so it’s a no-brainer. For the cost of lunch you can avoid a vehicle that sits in the repair shop every month, costing you an arm and a leg.
Before you buy any used car, get yourself a VIN search and a full vehicle history report… you’ll be glad you did.
James has over 25 years of experience in the auto industry and is a regular contributor to the VIN search section of checkmycar. com, a site covering the ins and outs of the used car buying process.