Shopping for a used car can be a hit or miss, and you don’t want to waste your money. You want to always run a vehicle history report to determine if the car has any significant issues and avoid falling for a scam. However, using a major VIN number check service like AutoCheck can be expensive.
If you don’t have the money to get an AutoCheck report, take a look at these free alternatives.
What’s a VIN?
A VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, is like a social security number for a car. No two vehicles have the same number, allowing you to find the car’s manufacturer, features, insurance coverage, and other histories.
Vehicles made after 1981 have a 17 character VIN. The letters and numbers in the VIN directly correspond to information about:
- The place of origin
- The engine type and size
- The model
- The plant that put the vehicle together
The VIN ends with the vehicle’s serial number. You can find the full number on the car’s dashboard or inside the driver’s side door. If you don’t have access to the vehicle, the registration or insurance card can also tell you.
A VIN check can help you make inferences about a vehicle. For example, if the vehicle spent time in an extremely rough climate, you’ll know to check for corrosion damage.
Why Check The Vehicle History Report?
When a vehicle goes through a major event (such as an accident or ownership change), it goes on the vehicle history report. It is important to check this report to find out the maintenance history, recall history, whether the car used to be a rental, the title history, and other information.
If you’re shopping online or through a private party, finding a vehicle history report can save you time. After all, you don’t want to travel a long way to see a car and find out that it’s damaged.
Keep in mind that a vehicle history report can only show the documented incidents. If a vehicle owner conducted repairs without involving an insurance company, you likely wouldn’t find it on the report.
VIN Check Services Like AutoCheck
AutoCheck is one of the biggest platforms for finding vehicle history reports. If you are at a car dealership, they may use the service to provide you with a report. If you’re on your own, you can save money by using one of the free VIN check services online.
Not all VIN checkers use the same database, so it can’t hurt to use all of these services and compare the results. At a minimum, you should find the odometer reading, a theft check, any structural damage, and accident history.
EpicVIN provides a completely free VIN check for anyone looking for the history of a vehicle. With an EpicVIN report, you can quickly get information about the title, recalls, accidents, damages, previous owners, odometer readings, photos, and more. All you need to do is enter or scan the VIN on the EpicVIN website.
If you don’t have the VIN, you can also use a license plate number. The company gets its information from certified national databases, and it is an approved data provider for the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). If you want to search multiple VINs or get a prepaid report, you can sign up for a paid membership.
The EpicVIN site features a sample report so you can see an example of what you’re getting. The other free services include an odometer check and a flood check.
Similarly, VINGurus allows you to type in any VIN and find information about a vehicle. The information includes an airbag deployment check, active theft check, accident check, ownership check, an odometer check, and a title problem check.
With VINGururs, you can pay for a report package even if you don’t have the vehicle’s VIN yet. These packages don’t expire so that you can have access for the duration of your car search. However, you will lose access to your reports 90 days after you open them.
The website has a VIN decoder feature as well. It is free to enter any VIN and find basic information about a vehicle.
VINinspect is also an NMVTIS source. Like the others, they do a VIN number check for free so that you can see the vehicle’s specifications. You can also see what information is available in the history report. To go deeper, you’ll need to purchase the vehicle’s full history report.
You can generate a sample report on the site to see how one would look. Your report may not come up if the vehicle is brand new or made before 1981.
CarFax, like AutoCheck, is another major source of car reports. You can go on the CarFax website and search for information using a VIN or license plate number. The CarFax reports show ownership history, type of use, service history, and accident data.
At a dealership, you can ask for a CarFax report for free. Typically, if a dealer is unwilling to give you one, there’s probably something wrong with the car. If you aren’t working with a dealer, you’ll have to pay for the report yourself.
You can also pay for a vehicle history report as a used car seller. Providing your buyers with one helps build trust between the parties. CarFax reports are more expensive than the other AutoCheck report alternatives on this list.
AutoCheck Report Alternatives
Running a vehicle’s VIN is the best way to know if the car is trustworthy. Some private used car sellers try to scam buyers by selling cars with extensive damage or lying about the mileage and history. You should always conduct a VIN check before purchasing a used car.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking at multiple vehicles, getting AutoCheck reports gets expensive. You can use many online alternatives that offer a completely free VIN check and affordable full history reports.
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