If, like me, you’ve recently decided to buy a used car you will know the stress involved! I began by looking through the adverts for the model I liked, but it was when talking to a friend I got to know something that became extremely useful; every vehicle manufactured anywhere in the world is given what is known as a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) which it carries for life. I never knew just how important this number was until now, and it really has helped. So, what is the VIN, and how can it help you?
The VIN Explained
If you want to find out about the history of your car the VIN is the place to start, but first, a little bit about the history of this essential identification method. The VIN was introduced in the early 1980’s as a world-wide industry standard, and is a record of where the car was built, the manufacturer who built it, the country of origin and much more. It is generally a 17-digit number that is embossed or printed on a metal plate which, in turn, is attached to the vehicle securely. The importance of the VIN cannot be exaggerated: if the number on the car does not match that on the relevant paperwork you should walk away – as simple as that!
But, there is so much more that the VIN can tell you about the car; each set of numbers within the VIN has its own purpose. The first set of six tells you the type of vehicle – car, truck, bus, or whatever – and therefore means that you can immediately see if the vehicle has been altered in any way or has undergone a change of use. The remainder of the numbers are a unique identification code for that very vehicle – there are slight differences between the codes in the USA and the rest of the world, but the essential meaning is the same.
Further Reasons Why You Should Check The VIN
One of the most useful things my friend told me about checking the VIN was that it can give you a clear picture of the history of the vehicle. For example, of a vehicle is reported to the police as having been stolen the VIN is recorded on a database that can be accessed by the relevant authorities. This gives the police, and you, an immediate indication as to whether the car has been stolen or is in the correct hands. Buying a stolen vehicle – even without knowing you are doing so – can result in you losing the car and not having any recourse to the law to get your money back.
So, now we’ve established the basics of checking the VIN, where can you find it? In most vehicles you will find a metal plate attached to the bodywork of the car; some carry this under the bonnet on the inner wing, others on one of the sills, and others in the foot well of the vehicle. Wherever it is, the vendor of the vehicle should be more than happy to show you and, if they are not, then something is amiss. Don’t take any excuses – the VIN is essential to your purchase.
What I did learn from my friend is that there are specialists who can do the work for you; simply give them the VIN of the vehicle – it’s an online process – and they run a series of checks about the vehicle, in great detail. I looked at two of the market leaders – AutoCheck and Carfax – and found the service they offered to be valuable indeed.
AutoCheck – Full & Impressive Service
I was directed to AutoCheck by several people who had used their services before, and found them to be more than helpful. The service they provide is nothing short of comprehensive in every way. Furthermore, their website is well designed and very informative; there is plenty of information about buying used cars and how to do it safely, as well as instructions on your legal requirements as the new owner.
Even more useful, AutoCheck also uses information it gains from the vehicle license number, as well as the VIN, to verify if it is genuine or not so. This service is also important in that it can help determine if the vehicle is party to any outstanding HP or loan payments; if it is, you could find you are relieved of your vehicle buy law even though you bought it legally! AutoCheck has made the whole procedure of checking details of the vehicle very easy indeed, and also delves into the insurance history of the vehicle. This can tell you if it has ever been involved in an accident – or written off and returned to the road – and even if, at any time, it has been used as a taxi or run as part of a fleet.
With more than 20 checks carried out if required, AutoCheck can also determine if a car has been imported from overseas or if it was made for the domestic market – important factors in terms of insurance. I can see why the service was so highly recommended as I found it informative and easy to use, and it may even be essential.
Carfax – Another Leading Player in The Market
Carfax also came highly recommended and I investigated it thoroughly; it provides a similar service to AutoCheck – an online checking service involving the license plate and VIN plus insurance history and more – and covers all the same ground, and while I found it also easy to use, I was swayed towards AutoCheck in many ways.
Which One to Use?
These are not the only VIN checking services available, but they are two of the best and the leading players in the market. This is for very good reason, as both are affordable, comprehensive and impressive in terms of results. I found AutoCheck a little easier to use, and its 26-point report covered everything imaginable in terms of the history of my car, and as it is part of the huge Experian insurance group it offers added reassurance. Whichever route you choose, remember that checking the VIN is not an option, it’s essential, and you can find all the information you need on the AutoCheck website.