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How to Find a Car by Serial Number

Updated March 23, 2017

Every car manufactured in the United States and European Union has its own unique serial number, or a vehicle identification number (VIN). These numbers help locate stolen cars and provide information for potential used car buyers. If you are looking for information about your car, there are many websites and online resources available to provide you with this info.

Locate and write down your car's serial number. Vehicles manufactured after 1969 will all have the serial number on the driver's side dashboard, viewable through the windshield. The serial number is 17 characters long and includes both letters and numbers. If your car was manufactured before 1969 and the serial number is not on the dashboard, it is probably located on the front engine block, the front end of the frame, the boot, the driver door jam or the back wheel well.

If you have trouble locating the serial number, contact the car manufacturer to determine the exact location of the VIN.

Visit a website that searches public records of cars based on serial numbers, such as CARFAX. There are many sites that allow for VIN searching for free or a small fee, including your state's DMV.

If you choose to pay for serial number searches, register your account through your e-mail address and enter your credit card information. Sites that require a fee to search the records often provide more thorough information about a car's history.

Enter the serial number into the search window of your chosen website. The website will then search public databases to gather information about your car, including theft and accident reports.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer with Internet access
  • E-mail address (optional)
  • Credit card (optional)
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About the Author

Tatyana Ivanov has been a freelance writer since 2008 and has contributed articles to "Venus" and "Columbus Family." She continues to write humor pieces for a number of popular culture blogs. Ivanov holds a Bachelor of Arts in media studies from Hunter College.