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Do Not Buy a Second-hand Car Before Running a Title Check


Are you thinking of buying a pre-owned vehicle? Whether it is a passenger car, a trailer, or a motorcycle, looking into its history is vital. Thanks to VIN, you can get a plethora of data through a quick check online. Make sure the title of the vehicle is clean, and the seller is not hiding any events that affect its true value, such as accidents or repossessions.

The free online title checker reveals any changes to vehicle registration in the past. To get a full report, you only need the identifier — the 17-character code found on the vehicle and in its registration documents. Here are the basics.

How VINs Work

Every vehicle manufactured in the United States since 1954 has been given a unique identifier. In 1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration introduced the standard that is still valid today — 17 letters and digits. Each character denotes a specific piece of information, such as country of origin, model, or model year. Importantly, the sequence never includes three letters that are easily confused with numerals — i, o, and q.

Vehicle Title Information

Via a VIN-based title check, you will find out about any serious changes concerning ownership and the condition of the vehicle. This simple tool will prevent costly mistakes and unsavory surprises. For example, you may discover that the car is:

  • a replica or reconstructed vehicle (i.e., it contains non-original car parts),
  • a gray market vehicle that may not be registered in the United States as it was produced abroad,
  • a junk vehicle, which is dangerous to drive,
  • a warranty return,
  • a salvage vehicle (damaged so badly that the insurance company paid a claim on it),
  • a rebuilt vehicle (repaired salvage title).

The appearance of a second-hand vehicle can be deceptive. Even if it looks perfect, you may discover that it was a salvage title once. Note that identifiers on retro vehicles produced between 1954 and 1981 have a different format.

FaxVIN reports are accurate as no two cars produced since 1981 can have identical VINs. You could also run a check offline through your local DMV office or dealership. In different states, there are different rules for VIN checks, and DMV fees also vary.

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Where to Find VIN

The code is usually imprinted on non-removable parts, preferably on the interior to prevent damage. You may find it on different elements depending on the manufacturer. Vehicles produced in North America often have the VIN on the driver’s side near the base of the windshield on the dashboard or the doorjamb just under the latch. If it is not there, reach out to the car manufacturer and inquire about their typical placements.