AutoCheck and CarFax are popular ways to check on a used vehicle’s history before buying or selling. They aren’t always 100% accurate, but can still be a useful tool and possibly worth the $30+ retail price. But AutoCheck also lets car dealers check show free basic VIN checks to show their customers, and people (not me) figured out you can piggyback on this feature rather easily.
(Update 7/22: You can still try using the instructions below, but it appears that Autocheck has closed this loophole. You can still get a basic free VIN check at AutoCheck.com that will show you the year, make, model, style and country of assembly for any VIN. It’ll also show you how many vehicle history records there are for this vehicle, but in order to see the details you’ll have to pay for the full report.)
To perform a another basic check of whether a specific car VIN has been reported stolen or has a salvage title, use this free NCIB.gov VINcheck tool. Together, these would provide a good initial check to any potential Craiglist used car purchases. If you wish to proceed, it may be worth it to go ahead and purchase a report.
Finally, there is also a more affordable option called VinAudit.com that sells their vehicle history report for only $12.99. They also include title registration records, junk/salvage records, insurance records, and odometer history. Data is from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). States, insurance carriers, and salvage yards are required by federal law to report data to NMVTIS. Their sample report looks pretty much the same as the other guys, but Compare with $39.99 for CarFax and $29.99 for AutoCheck.
Here are the adapted instructions to get a free VIN check:
- Go to Google.com, and run a search for “dealer autocheck inurl:vin“
- Click on the first result that is not an ad. (Also ignore other car forums that are talking about this trick.)
- Look at the URL toolbar. It will look something like:
Replace LONG_VIN_NUMBER with your own car or motorcycle VIN, something like:
(No spaces. Again this URL is only an example.)
- Hit Enter, or copy/paste the new address into a new window and hit Enter. If it doesn’t work, use the next dealer website URL that comes up.