Every motor vehicle has a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which can be used to check the registration, title, and any insurance claims. The numeric characters in the VIN indicate: the country of origin; manufacturer and division; vehicle description, safety and type of engine; the manufacturer’s security code; vehicle’s model year; assembly plant; and vehicle serial number.
Several no-cost VIN-check services are available to identify potential vehicle problems when buying a used car. This service is especially important when purchasing a vehicle online through Craigslist or eBay. A VIN-check service may also be used to obtain information on your current vehicle.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (http://www.nicb.org/vincheck) has a basic VIN check search tool that will tell you if a vehicle has been reported as lost or stolen, salvaged, or declared a total loss after an accident.
VehicleHistory.com offers a more complete VIN check, such as fuel economy, ownership costs, and a price analysis. Also included are the selling history, recalls, manufacturer warranties, and price estimates for the best time to buy a certain make and model.
iSeeCars.com/VIN consider 200 data points to create a car history report with a price analysis, price history, projected depreciation, and the best times to buy and sell.
As always, when buying a used car have an ASE certified mechanic of your choice inspect the vehicle. Remember, nearly every used car is sold “as is.” Also be cautious of vehicles with flood damage that were rebuilt and had their titles “washed” after a hurricane or other major storm. These cars often encounter failed electrical systems.
For additional information on VIN checks for used cars, go to:
- Have students talk to others to learn about actions to take when buying a used car.
- Have students create a visual proposal (poster or slide presentation) with mistakes a person should avoid when buying a used car.
- What features of VIN-check services might help people improve the car-buying process?
- Describe situations in which a VIN check may be appropriate.