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How to check the history of a car with a license plate number

In order to investigate the history of a car, a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is needed. Most vehicles have the VIN number posted on the top of the dashboard on the inside of the car. However, with older models and with cars that don't have a visible VIN number, you can still get the VIN number using the number plate number. The best way to obtain a VIN number from a car number plate number is to do a reverse VIN lookup.

Copy the exact current number plate number onto a piece of paper. Include the state that is listed on the number plate. Write down any distinguishing hyphens or spaces listed on the number plate.

Visit a reverse VIN lookup website. Choose a reputable site like License-Plate-Search.org or Tracing-America.com for the best results. Enter the complete number plate number in the request field.

Obtain the car's VIN number from the reverse lookup website. Use the VIN number to research the history of the car. Choose a reputable car history reporting agency like Carfax.com or AutoCheck.com to obtain a vehicle history report. Enter the complete VIN number in the required field to obtain the car's history report.

Pay for the reverse VIN lookup and the history report. A reverse VIN search costs between £18 and £45 (as of 2010) depending on what site you choose. Pay for the medical history report. These typically run in the same price range as the reverse VIN search. Pay online using a credit card or a bank card.

Tip

Make sure the number plate is registered with the car. Some car dealers and individuals put a temporary plate on the vehicle for selling purposes.

Warning

Car history reports are reliable, but they are not infallible. Always have a vehicle checked by a certified mechanic and make sure the history report does not show any outstanding liens on the car.

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About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.