While you may be wary about purchasing a used vehicle, it can be the smartest way to go. Used cars are typically more affordable, cost less to insure and register, and have depreciation already factored into the sales price.

But do proceed with caution. Running a DMV VIN check before you buy will help steer you in the right direction.

What Is a DMV VIN Check?

Every car is issued a 17-digit vehicle identification number during manufacturing. Similar to a social security number, the VIN is a car's unique identifier. Each of its digits provides information about the auto's country of origin, model type, engine code, and other specifications.

Insurance companies and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) use VIN's to track a vehicle's history, including ownership, damage claims, recalls, and more. Just like people, a used car has its own story to tell; the VIN is the key to its hidden past if you use it for a free VIN check with DMV.

A car is a significant investment. Running a DMV VIN check is the most efficient way to ensure you're not buying someone else's headache. You owe it to yourself to do a little digging.

Why Needs a DMV VIN Number Lookup?

Imagine you've been shopping around for a while and think you've finally found the car for you. You're so enamored that you sign on the dotted line right away without further ado.

Unfortunately, a policeman pulls you over on the way home, and you're shocked to learn the vehicle was stolen! In such a case, your dream car would wind up confiscated, and your money has gone for good.

Or let's say you get home without difficulty, but the next morning the car won't start. Turns out, you'll need to spend a few more thousand dollars on replacing the transmission. These types of nightmare scenarios happen all too often.

But they don't have to. A simple DMV VIN lookup would tell you if the car was legally available for sale or had incurred significant damage in the past. Protect yourself by running a DMV VIN check before you buy.

How to DMV Look Up a VIN Number?

The first step in a DMV VIN lookup is to obtain the 17-digit VIN (if you are purchasing a vehicle older than 1981, it will range from 5-13 characters). You can find the VIN stamped in a few areas: on the driver's side dashboard or the driver's side door jamb, the engine block, and in the spare tire well.

It's safer to physically find the number yourself and copy it down because unscrupulous sellers have been known to try to pass off a clean title on a car with issues. With VIN in hand, follow these three easy steps:

  • Visit VinPit website
  • Enter the complete VIN
  • Click on "Start Search".

That's it! A 100% free, complete history on the vehicle will be available instantly. With so much valuable information at your fingertips, doing a free VIN number lookup should be considered a must-do step in the buying process.

How to Read a DMV Vehicle History Report?

Performing a free DMV VIN verification on a site such as VinPit will yield a comprehensive VIN history report instantly. A history of theft, titleholders, recalls, and insurance claims are only some of the pertinent data provided. You can expect your read-out to include:

  • Ownership details of the vehicle, including the buyer's name and the purchase date.
  • Associated details of theft related to the car.
  • The car can be stamped as 'found and recovered from a disaster, which means that the state agency has marketed it as 'branded.'
  • There can be some issues with the odometer.
  • Insurance claims may have been made across the vehicle, leading you to be known of the total loss history.
  • A cohesive overview of its market value
  • The vehicle might have a few recalls and active warranties.
  • Someone might have owed money on the vehicle, which gives the creditor the right to have its repossession.

This detailed information can be achieved through a comprehensive DMV VIN check. There is no other straightforward method to avoid getting deceived than performing a background check on the vehicle before you commit to it.


Performing a DMV VIN check will undoubtedly be the most seamless part of buying a used car. Take the few minutes needed to safeguard yourself and your investment. Remember the adage, caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. If there are no red flags, you can move forward with your purchase with peace of mind and enjoy the ride.