How VIN decoding can prevent you from buying a stolen car


According to statistics, the majority of stolen cars are never recovered. Typically, there are two ways for thieves to release them. While older vehicles can be dismantled and sold as parts, usually vehicles that are less than 5 years old and various expensive models are up for sale on the used car market. Continue reading to find out how to spot a stolen car if you’re searching on the used car market.

Professional scammers put a lot of effort to get around modern anti-theft systems and hide traces of vehicle’s distinguishing marks to diminish the risk of being caught. Nowadays, the information on every stolen vehicle is listed in electronic databases and is available for the general public, so most stolen cars are being put for sale under altered VINs. As a result, using VIN decoding tools is the first step in detecting theft. 

Each VIN encodes a lot of important data about a vehicle, which makes creating a fake VIN combination or picking up an existing VIN that would ideally match all of the vehicle’s characteristics almost impossible. Along with the general vehicle specifications like a year, make, and model, a VIN decoder provides the key details that could help you check the validity of your VIN such as color, engine, trim, transmission, steering type, and much more.  Basically, all VIN decoding information is usually captured at the time of manufacture. Thus, if you see any data inconsistency in the information provided by the VIN decoder with the vehicle’s actual image, and its title doesn’t contain any records of the related modifications, it’s likely that the VIN of this vehicle was altered.

During the inspection, it is vital to check all the places where a VIN should be located. If it’s absent or isn’t clear enough in some of the places, that is a red flag. Typically, you can find missing VIN labels on seatbelts, or negligently changed figures in some hard-to-reach places like underneath the spare tire or under the engine. 

Sometimes, new characters are drawn over the old ones if their graphics are similar. For example, V can be easily replaced by W, P by R, 0 by 9 or 6, etc. Another approach is to install a new plaque over the previous one, so always make sure that there are no suspicious scratches or dents near each plaque. One more important detail is the font. Search for original VIN plates for the model in question to compare the original font to the vehicle you are considering.

ClearVin provides a free VIN decoder service for those who are interested in the detailed information of their VIN. You can always run a comprehensive vehicle history report to get a complete overview of the vehicle’s history, including theft records.  

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