How to Check a VIN Number For Free

Your car's VIN tells you everything you need to know about your vehicle, but how do you check a VIN for free? Read this guide to learn how.
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Your car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) reveals a lot about it, including where it was made, its model year, and the vehicle type, among other information. Each vehicle has its own unique VIN that stays with it over its lifetime.
You also use a VIN when running a vehicle history report to see if the car has been in any accidents. This report can help you understand the health and safety of your vehicle, as well as the cost that might come with
owning and insuring
it. And while running a vehicle history report costs money, you can use a VIN to
check other information
for free.
Car insurance
comparison shopping and broker app
is here to show you how to locate a VIN, tell you how to check for recalls, and demonstrate how to use the National Insurance Crime Bureau website.

Part 1: How to locate a VIN

Before checking the VIN for your vehicle, you first need to find it. To find the VIN on your car, check the following locations:
  • Vehicle manual: The
    vehicle owner's manual
    contains the VIN in the front section.
  • Vehicle registration: The vehicle registration has the VIN listed on it.
  • Front of the engine: On some cars, you can find the VIN by opening the hood and checking the front of the engine.
  • Front windshield: Standing outside your car, look through the driver's-side front windshield. You’ll see the VIN on the dashboard in front of where the driver sits.
  • Above the rear wheel: The rear wheel well, directly above the tire, also sometimes contains the VIN. If you can't see it with the tire in place, you might need to take it off first, although there are easier ways to find it.
  • Inside the driver-side doorjamb: The upper portion of the inside of the driver-side doorjamb might contain the VIN.
  • Driver-side doorpost: You might find the VIN located near the door latch on the inside of the driver-side doorpost.
  • Underneath the spare tire: If you still can't find the VIN, take the spare tire out of the trunk and look there.
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Part 2: How to check for recalls

You can use the VIN to find out if a vehicle has any outstanding recalls before or after you buy it. To check for any recalls for the vehicle you want to buy or one that you own, do the following:
Step 1: Go to the NHTSA Website. The
National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA)
website allows you to check for recalls and defects using a car's VIN.
Step 2: Select Search for Recalls by VIN button. Click the "Search for Recalls by VIN" button at the bottom of the page.
Step 3: Enter the VIN. Enter the VIN in the appropriate field. You also need to enter a provided verification code and press submit.
Step 4: Check for recalls. The site shows you if the vehicle has any outstanding recalls dating back for the past 15 years.

Part 3: How to check a VIN number with the NICB

You can also check the VIN with the
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
database to make sure it’s not a stolen vehicle. The NICB Website allows you to check the VIN against a list of stolen and branded vehicles.
A branded vehicle includes cars declared a total loss or as salvage. To complete a search on the NICB site, do the following:
Step 1: Go to the NICB website. Once on the website, click on the Theft and Fraud Awareness menu.
Step 2: Select VINCheck. From the Theft and Fraud Awareness menu select the VINCheck option.
Step 3: Enter the VIN. Enter the VIN in the provided field and make sure to check the box stating that you agree with the NICB terms of use.
Step 4: Enter the verification code. Enter the displayed verification code and press the search button.
Step 5: Examine the report. Check the report to make sure the car is not stolen or has a branded title.
A VIN comes in handy when trying to find out important information on a car you want to buy, or even one you own. Whether you want to make sure the vehicle is not stolen or if it has no outstanding recalls, knowing how to properly use the VIN gives you access to this crucial data.
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