How to trace a vehicle history

Updated February 21, 2017

Examining the history of a car can turn up facts about the car's maintenance history, its accident record and its make and model. If you are buying a used car, this can help you decide if the car is worth the asking price, and if you are selling a used car, it is helpful to see what the buyer is looking at so you can be prepared.

Determine the history that you need. The more complete reports will include things like accident history, odometer checks and whether the car has been used for taxi or police service. Basic checks give you the car's make and model and year of production.

Locate the Vehicle Identification Number, also known as the VIN. In cars manufactured after 1981, the VIN is a 17-character code made up of numbers and letters. Prior to 1981, it may have consisted of anywhere between 11 and 17 characters. The VIN is typically located in the lower left or right hand corner of the windshield, and it can be seen from outside the car. If you cannot locate the car's VIN, check the manual or call the manufacturer for help.

Record the VIN on a slip of paper.

Choose a VIN lookup service. There are many services that will look up the vehicle history in exchange for a fee. If you are only curious about one car, you can purchase one lookup, or if you will be checking out a number of options, purchase a subscription to the service, which will give you an unlimited amount of lookups for a certain period of time.

Enter the VIN into the service you have chosen and you will receive a report on the car's history.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Paper
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author