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Buying a Second-Hand Car? Check Its VIN First

Are you in the market for a second-hand car? Check the VIN number of the vehicle you intend to purchase. This unique identifier can reveal a plethora of information about the specs and important events like accidents and repossessions. If the seller is trying to misrepresent the past, you know you should walk away. Here is how VIN checks work.

VIN Checks: The Basics

Since 1981, every vehicle in the United States has been given a unique identifier consisting of 17 letters and numerals. A quick check on FAXVIN will provide an in-depth report covering any damage, defects, accidents, and more. Here is what you should also know:

  • The information is collected from multiple sources, such as The U.S. Motor Vehicle Title System (NMVTIS), insurance companies, manufacturers, and state inspection stations.
  • The number is always read from left to right.
  • For the sake of clarity, the sequence never includes the letters I, O, or Q.
  • Every position stands for a specific part of the information, such as the country of origin, the model, and its engine specs.

Where to Find

Every car gets its identifier while it is still on the production line. VINs are always stamped on non-removable parts, usually on the interior. The number must stay on the vehicle throughout its lifespan, so it must be protected from damage.

Usually, the number is located on the chassis. Look under the plastic trim of the door opening from the driver’s or the passenger’s side. If it is not there, look at the engine bay. The location depends on the manufacturer and country of origin.

The identifier may be imprinted several times, and these numbers must match. Otherwise, the car includes parts of some other vehicles. It is also impossible for two cars to share a VIN legally. An online check is the best way to establish the true identity of any vehicle — passenger car, motorcycle, trailer, or truck.

How to Check?

If you are shopping for a vehicle in the second-hand market, running a VIN check in advance is mandatory. Make sure the seller is telling the truth. If you see any discrepancies between the report and their claims or the registration documents for the vehicle, do not buy it.

Criminals may transfer VIN from one car to another. If the numbers in different physical areas do not match, this is a red flag, too. This means you are looking at a “cut and shut” car containing parts of two different vehicles.

The Bottom Line

Every car has a unique identifier known as VIN. This 17-character sequence unlocks a lot of useful information for buyers and owners. You can find the original specifications of the vehicle and check vital events in its history, such as inspections, damage, accidents, and repossessions. Get the full report to prevent nasty surprises.

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