To ensure that you are not purchasing a stolen car, it is best to buy cars from dealerships. However, buying used cars from private sellers could save you thousands of dollars. If you opt to buy a car from a private seller, you first will need to confirm the car was not stolen. The easiest and most reliable way to do this is by using the vehicle identification number, or VIN, to look up the history of the vehicle.
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Find the VIN of the vehicle, and write it down. It usually is located on the dashboard near the base of the windshield. If you can't find it, ask the seller for it, or call your local dealer of the specific make of your vehicle and ask them where the VIN is located.
Enter the VIN into the vehicle history report web site. Steps might vary from site to site, but typically, you will be asked to create a login and pay the fee.
Check the vehicle history report, which will show, among other things, if the vehicle was stolen or if it is a salvage title, meaning the car was deemed a total loss after an accident.
Call your local police station (not the emergency line), and ask if the vehicle has ever been reported stolen, carinsurance.com suggests. Law enforcement officials might take a few days to get you the information.
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