That beautiful used car may have defects or red flags not visible to even a discerning car buyer's eye. It could be a lemon, have an altered odometer reading, or even be on a stolen car list.
To avoid any surprises after purchase, you should do some basic research on any vehicle you are about to buy.
However, even a thorough pre-purchase inspection and test drive might not uncover all the potentially serious problems with a car.
One way to protect yourself is to use a VIN check tool. With it, you can quickly obtain a vehicle history report that provides a comprehensive picture of the car’s condition, such as specifications, accident history, previous sales or auction activity, title status, liens, recalls, theft records, and other relevant details.
12 Best Free VIN Check Services for Vehicle History Reports
There are several free VIN check services for looking up a vehicle’s history. However, the quality of these services can vary in both accuracy and cost.
Our tech team reviewed a wide spectrum of VIN services and identified the top 12 best free VIN check services in terms of accuracy, coverage, and presentation.
Table of contents
- VinPit - Best overall
- VINNumberLookup - Best for anonymous VIN searches
- NICB - Best for optimized VIN search engine
- Bumper - Best for buying and selling used vehicles
- NHTSA - Best for running multiple VIN checks
- VINCheckFree - Best for detailed maintenance records
- AutoCheck - Best for free buyback protection
- VINCheck.info - Best for comprehensive
- Carfax - Best for cross-border VIN checks
- VehicleHistory - Best for car-buying guidance
- iSeeCars - Best for used car lookups
- VINCheckPro - Best for car owner reports
- What Can I Find in a Free Vehicle History Report?
- Top Tips Before Purchasing a Used Vehicle
VinPit - Best overall VIN report
VinPit is deservedly at the top of this list. It pulls data from thousands of publicly available databases and even a few private ones to provide a very comprehensive vehicle history report. These sources include NHTSA, NICB, dealerships, towing agencies, salvage auctions, insurance companies, and more.
With this service, you can have access to recall, lien, auction, title, accident, and other data generally not included with other VIN reports, helping you check out the vehicle's entire history for free.
Plus, VinPit enables you to run a VIN check from every state and has dedicated decoders for a specific make, e.g. Ford and Volkswagen, and for different auto types, e.g. cars, motorcycles, and RVs, which can help you narrow down the search scope and, by extension, cut down the time needed to gather results on the used car.
Searching through this platform is simple and straightforward:
- Go to vinpit.com
- Enter the VIN number in the search field
- Click "Start Search" to search authorized databases for updated information associated with the vehicle
- Receive a vehicle history report
- There is no need to create an account to use this service
- There are two options available to any user - a VIN lookup or a license plate lookup
- You can run a VIN check by make, auto type, or state
- Not available on Messenger or Facebook
- Has no phone support
VINNumberLookup - Best for anonymous VIN searches
VINNumberLookup is arguably one of the best VIN check services available today. It doesn’t keep any records of checks run on its search engines. All your VIN searches remain confidential and anonymous.
The tool is equipped with robust database technology that keeps vehicle information current. All the info you acquire through this free VIN check service, like the last odometer reading and last selling price for a used car, is always up-to-date.
If you don't have the VIN, don't fret. The service provides an added convenience by allowing you to get the same vehicle history report with a license plate number instead.
To conduct a free VIN lookup at VINNumberLookup, you'll need to:
- Go to its homepage and locate the search bar
- Type in the target VIN and click on "Start Search"
- Receive instant results
- Download the report if you wish to keep a copy
- Produces results in a few minutes
- Conducts anonymous searches
- Carries out free VIN checks or license plate number searches
- It has no buyback protection
- Relatively new in the industry
NICB - Best for optimized VIN search engine
NICB, short for National Insurance Crime Bureau, is a not-for-profit organization that works to reduce the incidence of insurance fraud and theft. It is one of the most trusted sources for a free vehicle history report.
It provides free VIN check services for its users who can check up to five reports in a day for free. Unlike most VIN lookup tools that require manual entry, you can also upload a photo of the VIN.
To search for a vehicle’s history on NICB, do the following:
- Visit the website’s VIN check page
- Locate the ‘Look Up a VIN’ search box and enter the vehicle’s VIN there
- Tick the checkbox to show you agree to the terms and conditions of the site
- Click on the search VIN link to begin the search process
- You can upload a photo of the VIN instead of typing it out manually
- Its search algorithm is efficient and produces results in a few minutes
- Each IP address is limited to only five searches within 24 hours
Bumper - Best for buying and selling used vehicles
Bumper is another renowned VIN lookup service you can use to check the real worth of your vehicle for free. The platform assists hundreds of thousands of people in getting a car report every week. By compiling data from numerous government agencies, such as NMVTIS and NHTSA, it ensures its users can access accurate, updated vehicle information.
It can be a one-stop shop for all your vehicle shopping needs. Besides VIN search, it also allows you to buy vehicles. The Bumper marketplace is filled with a wide selection of new, pre-owned, and used vehicles of all makes and models, so you'll likely find one that fits your needs.
Additionally, it works with Jerry to make it easy for you to compare auto insurance quotes and with Peddle to help you sell your used vehicle.
Last, by subscribing to its service, you can even unlock the Bumper Connect service to have real-time monitoring of your WIFI-enabled vehicle. This helps you keep track of your vehicle maintenance, odometer reading, and tire pressure via your phone.
To run a VIN check on Bumper:
- Locate the search bar on its home page
- Enter the VIN and click "Search"
- Receive your car report in a few minutes
- Can search by VIN, or by license plate number, or by year, make, and model
- Allows users to buy vehicles of any type, make, model, and condition
- Helps users list their cars for sale for free
- Has an extensive network of buyers and sellers
- Allows users to compare insurance quotes from over 50 companies
- Has exclusive Bumper Connect tool for real-time vehicle monitoring
- Need to pay $8.74 per month for an unlimited number of vehicle history reports and comprehensive car history
NHTSA - Best for running multiple VIN checks
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a US federal agency that oversees motor vehicle safety. It has a page dedicated to VIN checks.
Users can use its VIN decoder tool to look up their vehicle history. Its database includes information from car dealers, rental companies, and other sources to identify vehicles involved in accidents, odometer fraud, theft, etc.
Its report highlights defects, recalls, and every other detail concerning the user’s safety. The tool is also used by law enforcement agencies to help them identify vehicles for investigative purposes.
To get a free VIN report on NHTSA:
- Go to the VIN decoder page
- Enter a full 17-character VIN or partial VIN in the VIN box
- Enter the model year of the vehicle
- Click the search button located on the right-hand side of the search bar
- Shows all unrepaired vehicles affected by a safety recall in the last 15 years
- The search algorithm is highly optimized
- It does not show safety recalls from small vehicle manufacturers and a few ultra-luxury brands
VINCheckFree - Best for detailed maintenance records
Exactly what the name says, VINCheckFree is a tool allowing users to run a free VIN check. Whether you want to look up a car, motorcycle, RV, or truck, the service has you covered. This is made possible by its rich and extensive database, which contains information from government agencies, insurance companies, police departments, and more.
From its vehicle history reports, you can see the vehicle's photo, title, auction price (if applicable), recall, theft, salvage, sales records, and even maintenance history, which are all crucial details you need to know before making a purchase.
To get a free VINCheckFree report,
- First, go to vincheckfree.com;
- From there, you will see the VIN lookup option. Simply enter the VIN number as required and click on "Search". The platform will do the rest and provide you with a full report.
- Supports VIN check and license plate search
- Pulls data from NMVTIS and NICB to ensure accuracy
- No account required
- Has only a desktop tool. No mobile apps
AutoCheck - Best for free buyback protection
AutoCheck is another free VIN check service. On its platform, you can also find lists of vehicles of various makes and models for sale. A lookup on AutoCheck gives you a detailed report on the vehicle’s safety ratings, odometer readings, etc. You can also find free buyback protection for registered and qualified vehicles.
Uniquely, AutoCheck has a scoring system where the service assigns an AutoCheck Score to a vehicle according to its vehicle history report, enabling you to see how the car stacks up against similar vehicles.
To get a free vehicle history report:
- Find the search box here and enter the vehicle’s VIN or license plate
- Click the "Check VIN" or "Check Plate" buttons
- Provides information on whether the previous owner has made an insurance claim on the vehicle
- Has a scoring system allowing you to compare the histories of multiple cars
- You can find the history of a car in two ways, VIN lookup or license plate number search
- Charges a one-time fee for searches
- Lack of variety for pricing packages
- Report doesn't contain service or maintenance records
VINCheck.info - Best for comprehensive reports
VINCheck.info is another effective free VIN checker you should consider before making a purchase. With this tool, you can see information about millions of used vehicles quickly and accurately.
It provides a 10-page detailed, comprehensive report with info that isn't always provided, including the vehicle's market value, current warranty, and safety rating.
To get a free car report:
- Go to the VIN check page
- Enter the 17-character number in the search bar
- Click on "Check VIN"
- Helps users know when a vehicle is due for routine maintenance based on past maintenance records
- Allows users to have a copy of the report by entering their email
- No registration required
- Has no phone support
- Can be expensive when it comes to getting a full report
Carfax - Best for cross-border VIN checks
Carfax, well-known for its detailed vehicle history reports, has been around since 1986. It specializes in providing users with insight regarding a vehicle's make, model, body type, accident history, sales records, and more uniquely, maintenance records.
Carfax offers a buyback guarantee as well. Should you purchase a car based on its vehicle history report and it turns out to have title problems that aren't reflected in the report, Carfax will cover the vehicle cost. A clear reflection of how confident CarFax is in a given report's comprehensiveness.
Unlike other VIN lookup services in the U.S., Carfax also pulls data from Canada.
To look up a car's history:
- Visit the VIN decoder page of Carfax
- Enter VIN and click on "Check Your VIN"
- Has a rich database of relevant public records
- Has buyback guarantees
- Report even includes maintenance history
- It has a paid plan which is fairly expensive. You can get a report for $39.99, three for $59.99, or $99.99 for six
- Dealers can work around athe Carfax reporting system to hide title issues
VehicleHistory - Best for car-buying guidance
VehicleHistory offers 100% free vehicle history online checks and is a more budget-friendly alternative to CarFax. Its reports are clearly structured and accurate, containing valuable information about the vehicle's history, which you can leverage when negotiating prices with the dealership or private seller.
Its team of automotive experts also provides buyer guides to help you better understand the vehicle you intend to buy, including owners' positive and negative reviews for their cars.
To run this VIN check:
- Enter a vehicle’s VIN here and click on "Search"
- Receive a detailed and free report quickly
- You're also enabled to check by license plate
- Completely free vehicle history report
- No sign-ups needed
- It guarantees no spamming
- Has no buyback protection
iSeeCars - Best for used car lookups
iSeeCars has a rich, extensive database of new and used cars of different brands and models. Through this platform you can compare prices from different sites. The site has a comprehensive list of over 70% of all used cars in the US.
You can also find car-buying guides and advice on the website, helping shoppers find the right car for their needs. iSeeCars also provides insight regarding the most popular used cars for each state in the US.
To run a VIN check on iSeeCars:
- Go to the VIN check page
- Enter the VIN and click on "Check This VIN"
- Provides insights into the fastest-selling used and new cars from the previous month
- Allows users to filter car preferences based on metrics like power-to-weight ratio, transmission type, colors, and legroom
- Does not have comprehensive records of flood-damaged cars
VINCheckPro - Best for car owner reports
Like several others on this list, VINCheckPro allows you to review a vehicle’s history for free. However, its unique selling point is allowing users to request car owner reports and personal details. This helps you steer clear of cars whose previous owners are outlaws.
As part of the service, you can also research and compare the products and services you really need when buying a car.
To obtain a free car report:
- Select the "VIN" button from the homepage
- Enter the vehicle’s valid VIN in the search bar and click on the ‘Check this VIN’ tab
- Quick search powered by its unique AI-powered technology
- It is simple to use, even for a non-tech-savvy individual
- May need to create an account to save reports
- Lack of pricing transparency
What Can I Find in a Free Vehicle History Report?
Stolen car records
It might seem quite obvious, but it bears mentioning again because, without checking a car's history, you may be buying a stolen vehicle without knowing it. A possible consequence is ending up behind bars.
Vehicle title status
It is in your best interest not to get a car whose ownership is in question or has been the subject of a lien, and a vehicle history report helps you identify ownership statust.
A vehicle history report shows all minor and major reported accidents the car may have been involved in or if has a salvaged vehicle.
Vehicle’s technical specifications
It shows the vehicle’s technical specifications and features, including its model year, engine size, and drivetrain layout (front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, etc.).
It should also tell you if the vehicle has been part of a large fleet or used as a rental vehicle. This helps identify its past use and can explain things like higher-than normal mileage.
Has it ever been damaged by a flood? This report should identify that history. Flood cars can have hidden problems that may surface after purchase.
Top Tips Before Purchasing a Used Vehicle
Have a car expert inspect the vehicle
Before paying or signing those papers for a transfer of ownership, we recommend taking the vehicle to an independent mechanic. The mechanic should conduct a comprehensive inspection to see if all major mechanical systems are in order.
Weigh the listed price against its age
The right deal is often where there is a balance between price and reliability. A car that's too old or with too many miles may require excessive maintenance to keep running, while a newer, low mileage model can be quite expensive. We recommend 3-5-year-old cars.
Check its sales record
You can run a VIN check on the car to get more information about its sales history. This should help you know if you are paying more than has been paid for it in the past. For instance, a car shouldn’t cost more than it did two years ago unless it's a specialized model with collectible value.
Factor long-term costs
Before going to the car lot, research the car you’re considering with a focus on its long-term costs. Factors you should consider include fuel economy, car insurance, depreciation, and maintenance costs.
Consider private sellers
The claim that dealers offer high-quality used cars for lower prices is an unfounded one. This isn’t usually the case. If anything, private sellers are often more willing to negotiate, especially if they are trying to sell an older car to move on quickly.
Look at its vehicle history
Beyond sales records, a VIN number lookup can also help buyers see if the advertised car is a salvaged model or one with a recurrent fault. These cars cost significantly less, but are only worth considering if you know their condition before negotiating.
1. What is a vehicle history report?
Vehicle history reports provide information about a used or second-hand car. With the report, you can find the vehicle's technical specifications, recall records, sales records, last selling price, accident history, and more. This may influence your decision to buy or how much it is worth.
2. What information can you find on the VIN report?
Typically, a VIN report can provide basic information about your vehicle, including its make and model, year and date of manufacture, engine type/size, country of origin, length of ownership, airbag deployment, and which company manufactured it.
It also gives a comprehensive overview of the vehicle's history, like whether it has been involved in an accident and been classified as a salvage vehicle, if it's a lemon with recurring mechanical issues, any related recalled, if it was rebuilt, and previous selling price.
3. Why should I run a VIN check?
That sleek gray BMW might have unseen flood damage, odometer rollback, or safety issues. But you can't tell by just looking at the car yourself. If you want the unseen details of a used or pre-owned vehicle's history, a VIN check can help. It provides an honest answer on your car's history and helps you make an informed purchase.
Additionally, you might be able to negotiate with the seller to get a better price for the car if the car's defects are understood and aren't a dealbreaker.
In addition, a VIN lookup can alert you if the car has been reported stolen, so you won't get caught up in legal issues.
4. Is it possible to run a VIN check for free?
Yes. The VIN check services listed in this article are all completely free to use, like VINNumberLookup, VinPit, and more. However, if you want to download a copy of the full report, you may need to pay for it.
5. Where can I find the VIN?
The VIN can often be found on the driver's side dashboard or the driver-side doorpost. If you can't find it on the vehicle, ask the dealership. If the seller refuses to disclose the information this is a red flag, and you should not buy the vehicle.
6. How to decode the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)?
The VIN is a 17-character code that uniquely identifies vehicles. It is used by the automotive industry to identify each vehicle and may be found on a metal plate on the dashboard, under the driver's side of the windshield or within the driver's door frame.
VINs are composed of these parts:
- The World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), the first 3 digits, which identifies the manufacturer, the vehicle's type, and the country of origin.
- The Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS), the 4th to 8th digits, contains details like engine type, model type, body type, and transmission.
- The Check Digit, the 9th digit, verifies that the VIN is valid.
- The Vehicle Identification Section (VIS), the 10th to 17th digits, represents the vehicle model year, production plant, and serial number.