Home » What Does a Stolen Car VIN Check Actually Tell You?

What Does a Stolen Car VIN Check Actually Tell You?

by Tim

When it comes to purchasing a used car, whether from a dealership or a private seller, one of the most critical steps in ensuring you’re making a wise investment is performing a stolen car VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) check. The VIN is a unique code assigned to each vehicle, acting as its fingerprint.

While this check won’t reveal every detail about a car’s history, it can provide crucial information about its legal status, including whether it has been reported as stolen.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what a stolen car VIN check can actually tell you and why it’s essential.

Understanding the VIN

Before diving into the details of what a stolen car VIN check can reveal, let’s briefly understand what a VIN is and what it represents. A VIN, often referred to as a “VIN check stolen,” is a 17-character alphanumeric code that serves as a vehicle’s unique identifier. It contains information about the car’s manufacturer, model, year of production, and more. The VIN is typically found on the dashboard near the windshield, on the driver’s side door jamb, or in the engine bay.

The structure of a VIN is standardized, which means each character has a specific meaning. Here’s a breakdown of what each character represents:

  • World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI): The first three characters indicate the vehicle’s country of origin and the manufacturer’s identity.
  • Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS): Characters 4 to 9 provide information about the car’s model, body type, and engine type.
  • Check Digit: Character 9 is a unique check digit calculated from the other characters in the VIN, helping to detect errors in the VIN.
  • Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS): Characters 10 to 17 make up the VIS and include information about the car’s production year, assembly plant, and a unique serial number.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what a VIN is, let’s explore what a stolen car VIN check can tell you.

Confirming Ownership and Legal Status

One of the primary purposes of a stolen car’s check is to confirm the legal status of the vehicle you’re interested in. If a car has been reported as stolen, the VIN check will flag this information. Here’s what it can tell you about the vehicle’s legal status:

Stolen Vehicle Alert

The most critical piece of information you can obtain from a stolen car check is whether the vehicle has been reported as stolen. If it has, this is a clear red flag, and you should immediately halt any further consideration of the purchase.

Salvage Title

While not directly related to theft, a VIN check can also reveal if a car has a salvage title. A salvage title is issued when an insurance company declares a vehicle a total loss due to significant damage or theft recovery. Knowing that a car has a salvage title can help you make an informed decision about its condition and potential resale value.

Salvage Title

Verifying Vehicle Details

Besides confirming the legal status, a stolen car check can also help you verify various details about the vehicle’s history and characteristics. Here’s what it can tell you:

Vehicle History

A VIN check can provide valuable information about the car’s history, such as its past owners, accident history, and maintenance records. This can give you insights into how well the vehicle has been cared for and if it has a history of recurring issues.

Odometer Reading

You can verify the accuracy of the car’s odometer reading through a VIN check. An unusually low or high mileage reading compared to the vehicle’s age can be a sign of potential issues or odometer tampering.

Title Information

The VIN check will also provide information about the car’s title history, including the title’s issuance date, any liens or loans associated with the vehicle, and whether the title is clean or branded (salvage, rebuilt, etc.).

Ensuring a Safe Purchase

Performing a stolen car check is not just about protecting your investment but also about ensuring your safety. Here are a few reasons why this check is essential for your security:

Preventing Legal Issues

If you unknowingly purchase a stolen vehicle, you could face legal consequences, including the possibility of losing the car and the money you paid for it. By running a VIN check, you can avoid becoming involved in any criminal activity unintentionally.

Avoiding Stolen Parts

Stolen cars are often dismantled for their parts, which are then sold on the black market. If you buy a stolen car, you may be indirectly supporting illegal activities and could end up with compromised and potentially unsafe replacement parts.

How to Perform a Stolen Car VIN Check

Now that you understand the importance of a stolen car check, let’s discuss how to perform one:

Obtain the VIN

The first step is to obtain the VIN of the vehicle you’re interested in. As mentioned earlier, you can typically find it on the dashboard near the windshield, on the driver’s side door jamb, or in the engine bay. Make sure you have the correct VIN before proceeding.

Use a Reliable VIN Check Service

Numerous online services and government agencies offer check services. Some of the popular ones include the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and commercial services like Carfax and AutoCheck. Ensure that the service you choose is reputable and provides comprehensive information.

Enter the VIN

Once you have the VIN and access to a reliable check service, enter the VIN into the system. The service will then retrieve information related to the vehicle’s legal status, history, and other relevant details.

Review the Report

Carefully review the information provided in the check report. Pay close attention to any alerts regarding stolen status, salvage titles, or discrepancies in the vehicle’s history. Take note of any potential issues that may require further investigation.


A stolen car VIN check is an essential step when buying a used vehicle. It provides critical information about the car’s legal status and history, helping you make an informed decision and avoid potential legal and safety issues.

Remember to always verify the VIN’s accuracy, use reliable check services, and thoroughly review the report before finalizing your purchase. By taking these precautions, you can ensure a safer and more secure buying experience when searching for your next vehicle.

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