Protecting Yourself When Buying a Used Vehicle From a Private Owner

You’ve found the perfect vehicle that’s for sale by a private owner. The price is right and you’re anxious to get the deal done. Save yourself some headaches down the road and before handing over your cash, get the VIN number first and run a check.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) allows people to run a free VIN check in order to determine whether a car has been reported as stolen but not recovered or if a NICB member insurance company listed it as salvage.

You can conduct a VIN search at: This website allows you to run up to five free VIN searches in a 24-hour period.

A car that is listed as salvage may have been in an accident, have serious structural problems or be expensive to repair. Many insurance companies will not insure a salvage-title car, which means that you would not be able to register the car in your state.

In addition, you can use the VIN number to run a more extensive vehicle information report through a company such as CARFAX. Although there is a fee for this service, the report does provide the following useful information:

  • Number of owners and the states where the car was registered
  • Information regarding liens on the car
  • Accident reports
  • Maintenance on the vehicle
  • Accident history
  • Car title check
  • Other damage to the car
  • Whether the car was salvaged

Play it safe with your hard-earned cash and run a VIN check on the next used vehicle you wish to purchase.