Check a car's VIN + Red flags to look for |
online car loan approval

How to get a VIN check on a used vehicle

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

Know where that car has been by checking its VIN.

Avoid the surprise of a shoddy transmission or an inaccurate odometer reading before you buy your next car by running a vehicle identification number (VIN) check on a vehicle’s history. It’ll tell you if there’s money owed on it, if it’s been stolen or if it’s been in a serious accident.

How to check a car’s history

There are many sites that can run a car’s history by running it’s VIN. When your trying to look into the background of a vehicle you’re eyeballing, check with one of these car vehicle history providers:

CostBest for…How it works
Carfax$39.99Vehicles with a hard-to-find historyCarfax has a database of over 17 billion history reports offering details on everything from sales history, previous owners, maintenance records and more.
Autocheck$24.99Easily checking that your car is in good shape.AutoCheck sells detailed vehicle history reports and ranks used cars by score based on similar cars with its make and a model. If your car gets an 88 but the average averages score for that make and model is 81 to 89, it’s in good shape.
Used car lotFreeChecking your history cheaply and convenientlyIf you’re heavily considering buying the car and the seller has nothing to hide, your used car may just go ahead and front the cost of the report in order to make the sale.

Find a used car loan

Why should I run a VIN check?

You might want to run a VIN check every time you buy a used car — especially if it’s from an individual. It can help you avoid scams and make sure that your vehicle is in as good a shape as the salesperson says it is. Otherwise, you could end up paying a lot more than your vehicle is worth.

What if the vehicle doesn’t have a VIN?

If a car you’re interested in doesn’t have a vehicle history, you don’t have to write it off completely. Instead, bring it to a mechanic you trust and have them give the car a top-to-bottom inspection.

What does a VIN check tell me?

Doing a VIN history check will tell you how the car has been taken care of by its previous owners. Details about any insurance claims or police reports will come up in the search, along with:

  • Vehicle history and information
  • Ownership history
  • Odometer reading
  • Maintenance and repair records
  • Previous sales history
  • Accident or flood history
  • Recalls
  • Salvage check
  • Structural damage

Compare car loans

Red flags to look for when buying a used car

Some things should be considered a deal-breaker —or at least warrant an enormous price reduction:

  • Has the car been previously written off? This means that it was decided that repairs would cost more than the car is worth. If a car has been previously written off, there’s a good chance it has some invisible damage or very shoddy repairs.
  • Is the car still under finance? If the car is still under finance, the seller probably shouldn’t be selling it, especially not without letting you know first.
  • Is it stolen? Buying a car from a thief is a good way to get robbed.
  • Has the odometer been rolled back? This is a tell-tale sign that the seller is trying to rip you off. Even if the odometer appears tampered with, it might be in your best interest to walk away.
  • Is it poorly maintained? If the car has a poor vehicle history, then it’s a long way from good as new and will likely not be the reliable vehicle you need.
Did you know about the National Insurance Crime BUREAU ?

By entering a VIN number into the NICB website, you can learn if a car has been stolen or written off as a loss.

Find your next car loan here

Rates last updated November 17th, 2018

Reveal your potential loan offers and rates

Answer two quick questions to filter the loan offers and get the best one for you.

Select your credit score range

I don't know my credit score

Finally, select where you live.

To get your credit score:

Experian logo

Experian is a leading provider of personal and business credit reporting. Find out your FICO score now for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, none of the personal loan providers offer loans for that credit score. If you are in urgent need of a small loan, you might want to consider a short term loan.
Name Product Product Description Min. Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements Car Loans
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
Typically 3 to 6 years
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
LightStream Auto Loans
Quick car loans from $5,000 to $100,000 with competitive rates for borrowers with strong credit.
Good to excellent credit
Flexible terms
Good or excellent credit, enough income or assets to afford a new loan, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
RateGenius Auto Loan Refinance
Connect with a network of over 150 lenders to refinance your car loan.
Income of $2,000+/month, vehicle has less than 150,000 miles, no older than 10 model years, loan balance is at least $10,000, debt-to-income ratio: less than 50%.
LendingClub Auto Refinancing
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
Fair or better credit
Minimum of 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
1–6 years
Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.
LendingTree Auto Loans
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
Good to excellent credit
Typically 1 to 7 years
Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Finding out a car’s vehicle history can reveal to you the state of the car and its current value. Doing your research along with following a used car buying checklist can help ensure you the most bang for your buck instead of getting stuck with a lemon.

Frequently asked questions

Image source: Shutterstock

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.
Go to site