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How to check vehicle ownership history

Updated March 23, 2017

When buying a vehicle, you must consider its condition and driving history, which in most cases is not always visible to the unaided eye. As a result, you would have to obtain a vehicle ownership history report to view such internal aspects. The Internet offers a vast selection of website resources that can assist you with checking vehicle ownership history on any car. Vehicle ownership history reports can be obtained by running the car's VIN online. The VIN is a unique code that identifies the vehicle, and vehicle reports give a full breakdown of the car's condition and driving history, based on its ownership information. The resource sites are exceptionally user-friendly, with legible print capabilities, so you can check and record vehicle ownership history for any potential vehicle of your choice.

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  1. Locate the VIN (vehicle identification number) in the lower left corner of the vehicle's windshield, or near the inside panel of the driver door. The VIN should be approximately 11 to 17 characters, consisting of both numbers and letters.

  2. Open your Internet browser, and access a vehicle history website to search for the VIN's history. (See Resources for a list of sites.)

  3. Type the VIN in the blank search data form that will be designated on the site's home page. (Every VIN check site has this amenity on the home page so you can easily begin searching for vehicle ownership history and driving reports.)

  4. Click the "Enter," "Search" or "Get Report" that will be located below or to the right of the search data form to begin retrieving search results for the vehicle. The search results will display a possible match for the vehicle, with the year, make and model associated with the VIN you entered.

  5. Browse through the search results, and double-click the year, make and model link that fits the description of the vehicle.

  6. Provide your personal information and debit or credit card information to view the vehicle ownership history and report. The vehicle ownership and traffic report will be displayed immediately after payment is processed. You will be able to load a version for online viewing, and a print-friendly version for your personal records.

  7. Tip

    VINs are usually 17 digits, but most cars manufactured before 1981 may vary in digits, ranging from 11 to 17 characters. (See Resources for more information on understanding VINs, and how to locate them on the car.) Many VIN check websites are available, but only a few of them provide accurate, up-to-date reports. Sites like CARFAX and Experian are the most reputable VIN report vendors and are highly recommended, as they have been tested to make certain the accuracy of reports.


    In most cases, only one result should be displayed. If more than one result is displayed you may want to consider re-entering the VIN, as no car has the same number. Detailed vehicle ownership history reports usually come with a cost. In most cases, detailed reports must be purchased. Most reputable websites only offer preliminary information about the vehicle to ensure you have located the correct vehicle before purchasing. If you are asked to purchase, you must have a debit or credit card available to process payment in order to view the detailed ownership history and driving report for the vehicle.

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Things You'll Need

  • Internet connection
  • VIN number

About the Author

Meaghan Ellis

Meaghan Ellis has been writing short stories, newspaper articles, Web content and product research reports for over 12 years. While double majoring in business management and marketing at Southern University, she runs a home-based graphic design and Web content business.

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