Tricks to Know the History of a Car

So, you are about to buy a used car. The price is right. As is the condition, both interior and exterior. But, do you have the car’s history? How many times has it been in accidents? Does that model have a safety recall? You will get the answer to these and more question by checking the vehicle’s history.

Find the VIN

The VIN is a unique 17-digit alphanumeric code that represents some valuable information about a vehicle such as the manufacturer and model year. You can find it in the manual of the car. But, when it comes to second-hand cars, most sellers will tell you they lost the document.

Fortunately, manufacturers print it and stick it on more than one place in the car. Try finding it on the:

  • Engine block

  • The dashboard (near the windshield)

  • Beneath the spare tire

  • In the rear wheel well

  • The driver’s door frame (inner side)

If you can’t find it, call the manufacturer and ask where they put the VIN in that specific model. However, the lack of VIN is often an indicator that the car has a history the seller would not like you to know.

Decode the VIN

After you locate the VIN, you need to know how to interpret the code. Each digit represents a vital piece of information as follows:

  • 1st: country of manufacture

  • 2nd and 3rd: brand (BMW, Toyota, KIA, etc.)

  • 4th to 8th: vehicle specifications such as model and engine type

  • 9: authenticity of the VIN (does it come from the manufacturer)

  • 10th: year of manufacture

  • 11th: country of assembly

  • 12th to 17th: serial number

Fortunately, you need not know how to interpret the meaning of each character. A free VIN decoder will translate the code into information you can understand.


Use the VIN to generate a free vehicle history report

You can use the VIN to get a more comprehensive vehicle history report. A vehicle history report has information regarding:

  • Accidents reports

  • Theft incidents

  • Safety and crash ratings

  • Safety recalls

  • Fuel efficiency

  • Previous car ownerships

Just search the internet for vehicle history report services, and you will get websites that provide the service for free such as

Ask the car dealership for a vehicle history report

Ask the seller for a vehicle history report. Most will provide it, particularly if you show genuine interest in buying a specific car. However, make sure they give you an up-to-date report. Someone providing a report from 2016 and we are in 2019 probably has something to hide.

Beware of VIN cloning

A car with a not-so-clean past is hard to sell. So, some 'smart' sellers will hide the one thing that could expose the dirty past.

VIN cloning involves replacing a car’s VIN with the VIN of another car of the same brand, model, and even year of manufacture. To be more convincing, they will use forged ownership document and register the vehicle with cloned VIN in a different state.

So, what are the signs of a cloned VIN?

  • The VIN plate has signs of tampering. Remember, they have to pry off the VIN plates from both cars.

  • Your physical observations on the vehicle are inconsistent with the documents provided and the information from the VIN decoder.

  • The price of the car is significantly low compared to others of the same brand, model, and year of manufacture. A good deal will make even the most cautious people skip careful scrutiny of a car. Like they say when the deal is too good think twice.


The VIN provides valuable information about the history of a car. So, its essential you learn how to find it and how to use it. Remember, things are not always what they seem. A car might look okay, but with a bad history. Some might have a history so bad that it might cost you thousands in repair, or even worse; cause you trouble with the authorities.

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