All-terrain vehicles have a unique identifier called a vehicle identification number on the frame. Vehicles that were manufactured after 1980 feature a 17-digit VIN. The digits on the VIN represent the country of origin, manufacturer, details of the style, production number and a check digit to prevent vehicle identification fraud. Vehicles made before 1981 will have a VIN of 11 to 17 digits. The VIN can be used to trace the history of the ATV if it has been registered with a state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Check if your state requires ATVs to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Some, such as Alabama, do not require registration of ATVs, but others, such as Arizona, do. If your state does not require registration, or if the ATV comes from another state that does not register ATVs, the ATV may not turn up in VIN history searches.
Write down your ATV's specific VIN number. It is essential the VIN is specific to the exact ATV, because each one is different.
Log on to the online VIN history checker at the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. This is the only source for officially approved VIN checkers in the United States. Other VIN checkers advertise their services, but to be safe, go through the NMVTIS. As of October 2010, approved companies were Auto Data Direct Inc., Carco Group Inc. and Mobiletrac.
Choose a website from the list of approved VIN history checkers. Check if the website offers recreational vehicle VIN checks or only car checks. For example, Mobiletrac, at the instavin.com website, offers recreational vehicle VIN checks.
Choose a type of report that includes owner history from the website. For example, Instavin by Mobiletrac, can give you an accident report that includes the ATV specifics decoded, accident history, junk/salvage or total loss records, and the average local retail price, but it will not give you ownership details. A full vehicle history report will give you all of those details along with title information, a glossary of title and brand information, problem indicators, odometer information and owner information.
Pay the fee requested. This fee covers only the running costs of the search, and operators do not make a profit from each VIN history request. However, operators are funded by the federal government.
Individual states may also offer their own VIN history checkers, but these will return only state records for a VIN instead of the more comprehensive report produced by the NMVTIS operators. If the VIN of the ATV has not been registered and you suspect the ATV has been stolen, contact local police, who may be able to track it down through stolen property reports.