If you’re trying to buy a new vehicle, but you don’t know how you can tell if a used car has been stolen or reported as missing in the past with all its details, then, this guide is for you.
These days, using the vehicle VIN lookup or its license plate number, you can find all the reports. However, some stolen vehicle search tools work, and others just give promises. That’s why we prefer trying each service before recommending it to readers.
How to tell if you’re buying a stolen car
This is how you can check if a car is stolen before you buy it. First, make sure you take note of the vehicle’s VIN and, of course, the license plate number. In addition, we recommend taking some photos to compare the car details with what you find as reports online or even offline.
1. Check the stolen vehicle records (best way)
This is always the best way to tell whether a car is stolen or not online. All you need is a powerful and up-to-date search system like this one that checks public records and finds hidden details about any car in the United States.
Some governmental sites like safercar.gov can help with that. But it’s not always possible to tell at 100% if the information is accurate or not, as there are no frequent updates. And also, when looking for limitations, the site allows up to 5 stolen VIN check lookups per IP address for 24 hours. So, keep that in mind when trying to find the truth about any car you want to buy or verify at least.
Some VIN lookup providers offer updated information thanks to the state-level agencies and the huge network of car insurance companies around the US. That way, the level of success may be different depending on what system you use.
Besides the fact that a theft record can tell you if the car was listed previously as stolen or even recovered, you might be surprised by the number of details that you get in the search report. As an example, some tools provide salvage records, number of accidents, sale records, prices, photos, and even more.
On the other side, INTERPOL helps fight car crimes by providing worldwide details about vehicles no matter where they were stolen. Their stolen vehicle database is available to police departments to exchange information and track down crimes related to the automobile world.
2. Use the vehicle identification number (VIN)
The VIN or (Vehicle Identification Number) is the most powerful way to verify and find the truth about any car. That includes the specifications, color, types of equipment, and options. Of course, if there are any reports or records of the missing vehicle, you’ll get them in the VIN check report. This is like a vehicle background check.
If you have doubts that the guy who is trying to sell the car is lying, then, here is how to find a stolen car with its VIN number. First, visit any trusted site that checks the truth about vehicles. Then, type in the search box the exact identification number you found on the car chassis.
Next, make sure the VIN is correct and not modified or fake. To do that, just look for any painting or welding work around the area where the chassis number is located.
Even if you found that the car was not stolen and the seller is a good guy, you can use the reverse VIN check. That way, you get an idea about the history and the real value of the car, based on millions of historical data.
Consequently, it’s also possible to negotiate the vehicle price and show the seller that the car may need expensive repairs or costly maintenance because you get the data from trusted sources.
In older cars, the VIN is located under the hood. Check the front chassis near the headlights, or other locations like the driver’s side door jamb where the number is. In modern cars, the VIN is located on the bottom side of the windshield, just on the driver’s seat.
Now, when you look for that identification code, verify that it’s a serial of 17 codes. Otherwise, if that’s not correct, then, the car was produced before 1981, and that’s another issue. That’s not all, we highly recommend having a close look at each number of the serial code. In fact, scammers can change numbers with the exact method the car manufacturer uses. So, verify that every number is not faked or modified in any way.
3. Lookup the car’s license plate number
In addition to all the information the user gets, there are other details about the mileage, previous owners, and more. When you can’t check the vehicle chassis number, this option is easier as the license plate number is visible from the outside of the car.
Many options are available today to check if a car is stolen by license plate number. Nevertheless, the only issue is the frequency of updates to the stolen car database. So, some algorithms show old information that’s not valid. That being said, many options still work well and provide clear car theft reports based on license plate numbers or other entries.
4. Search stolen vehicle records with car information
When it’s not possible for you to see where the car’s VIN is located or when you can’t find details by looking up the vehicle’s plate number, there is one more option to use. It’s the car brand, model, color, and type.
Some search systems allow users to search for any stolen car using the specifications and manufacturer. Just filter the search one by one until you get the exact car you are looking for. The recommended search options above work well for this.
5. Let an experienced mechanic check the car chassis
Thieves can use advanced techniques to hide the original car VIN and add a fake one. Or they may clone an exact serial number and put it on someone’s chassis without a clear difference.
That’s why getting help from experienced car body mechanics is the right way to avoid scammers and being in a bad situation. If you have someone you trust and he previously repaired your car or someone else in your family, then, ask him if he can check the vehicle for you and verify every single thing.
In reality, mechanics know their job better. So, they can perform in-depth checks into the car’s chassis, paint, and old repairs to see if everything seems to be okay or unusual.
If there are any details or damages that are unexplained or hidden, that’s a red flag. It’s because the car has been stolen or modified in a way that looks like another car without letting normal people notice the difference. Only experts can distinguish between real versus fake numbers of the vehicle chassis.
6. Ask the car insurance company
Car Insurance companies care a lot about their money. So, they do everything they can do to collect information about cars and exchange the data between their agencies. Now, the first step is to ask your local car insurance provider and check with them the full serial number of the car. Next, see if there are any lost-related reports in the past.
Common signs you’re buying a stolen car
Everything starts with trust and verifications on both sides. The buyer and the seller should be honest and provide their identification documents with addresses, and up-to-date contact details. If the seller refuses to give you his real name and ID and details about the car, or at least, to see it and make a copy, then, you’re dealing with someone who stole the car. In that case, he’ll make an effort to make you buy it as quickly as possible.
For that reason, don’t be naive and believe all the excuses that the car seller provides. If you have their phone number, you can use online tools to discover their real name.
Here is an example, some guys pretend to be in a hurry or have emergency stuff to do. So, they try to close the deal as fast as they can. As a word of caution, take your time, you’re buying a car that you don’t even know who is the owner behind. There is no evidence that the vehicle belongs to that person or to someone else you never met.
Another common sign that someone is trying to sell you a car that was reported stolen is when he refuses to let you check the VIN or takes it for inspection by a specialist. If everything in the car is legal and works, then, no one will refuse to verify this information.
That’s because they may make the price even higher when you see that the car is 100% legal and there are no hidden details.
When you talk to the seller, look directly in his eyes, and see if he tries to look elsewhere when he talks or answers your questions. It’s one of the best ways to know if the seller is lying to you or not, about the car you’re willing to buy.
Dealing with someone who wants to sell you a stolen car is not the best situation for everyone. But once you get all the information in one place, then, rejecting the purchase or negotiating the price if everything is legit are the two possibilities.
In all cases, it’s easy to find the truth about a car using its VIN or plate number. That being said, it’s recommended to take your time before taking action. You don’t need to buy a vehicle, and then find that it was reported as stolen previously.