back to articles | January 21, 2021 | Emily Andrews

Categories: Tips & Insights For Car Buying Vehicle & Buying Research Useful Automotive Information

4 Ways to Check Car Accident History Before Buying

Cars that are involved in accidents can suffer extensive damage not immediately visible to the naked eye. It is vital that all mechanical issues, whether they are visible or not, are repaired to ensure the vehicle is safe to drive.


Cars that are involved in accidents can suffer extensive damage not immediately visible to the naked eye. It is vital that all mechanical issues, whether they are visible or not, are repaired to ensure the vehicle is safe to drive.

How to Check Car Accident History?

A car’s history report can be obtained by looking up its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You should always check the VIN number before you purchase a new or used car. Use this to research its history and make informed decisions before you purchase.

What is a VIN?

A VIN is a string of 17 letters and numbers which act as a vehicle’s social security number. Since no two vehicles have the same VIN number, upon lookup it will display information about that specific car, including its make, model, accident report, and serial number.

How can it Help to Check Car History?

VINs offer detailed history reports of vehicles from the time they were first sold. A VIN lookup will reveal information such as registration, recalls, service records, and more. Service records will reveal if the car has been regularly maintained. Accident reports will show if it has been involved in any accidents. You will be able to tell if the accident has compromised the vehicle’s ability to run safely.

Ways to Check Car Accident History

There are different ways to check a used car’s VIN history. Here are some of the best places for referencing car history:

  1. National Insurance Crime Bureau: Provides a database of theft and loss records for cars. Declaring a car’s VIN will help you see if it has been marked as stolen or severely damaged at any point.
  2.’s Vin Check tool: This site gives thorough details on previous damages, car accident history, recalls, defects, sale history and more.
  3. Ask the Dealership: Request a CarFax report from your dealership. They will charge an additional nominal fee.

What to Look for in a Car’s VIN Report

Once you obtain a car’s VIN number, go through its history reports. Here are a few things you must consider in order to make an informed decision.

Legal status

This factor is especially important when purchasing from a private owner or unknown dealership. It will give you peace of mind that the car is legally acquired and has a clear title. It will inform you if a car has ever been reported stolen.

Service Records

VIN reports show a car’s maintenance records. You can see when and how often the vehicle received routine care. It is important for a used car to be well taken care of by its previous owner. A well-maintained car is a good car. This will help you avoid paying costly repair fees more quickly than you anticipated.

Number of Previous Owners

Check the VIN number to see how many previous owners a car has had. More than two owners is a clear indication that something is wrong. You might want to get a second opinion from a car expert on whether the car is fit for purchase.

Accident Report

Accidents affect purchase price and resale value. Accident reports will give you comprehensive information on the extent of the damage. You can negotiate a lower price on a car that has been involved in an accident. On the downside, it will be sold for less when you decide to sell.

How to Decode Your VIN?

Every letter and number provide specific pieces of information on the vehicle. This includes the year, make, model, engine size, and manufacturer. The information contained within a VIN is split into three groups: World Manufacturer Identifier, Vehicle Descriptor Section, and the Vehicle Identifier Section.

World Manufacturer Identifier

The first three digits of a vehicle’s VIN make up this section. The first digit identifies the country of origin or the final vehicle point of assembly. The second digit indicates the manufacturer and the region of production. The third digit, when added with the first two digits, indicates your vehicle’s type or manufacturing division.

Vehicle Description Section

The digits placed 4 through 9 make up the Vehicle Description Section (VDS). The fourth to eighth digits describe the vehicle’s model, transmission type, restraint system, body type, and engine code. The ninth digit is the check digit. This is used to detect fraudulent VINs.

Vehicle Identifier Section

Digits 10 through 17 of a VIN are the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS). The tenth digit shows the year of manufacture. It only applies to vehicles built-in or after 1981 since the VIN format was not standardized until that year.

The eleventh digit highlights the manufacturing plant your vehicle was assembled at. The twelfth to seventeenth digits are unique production serial numbers vehicles receive on the assembly line.

What about VINs with less than 17 Characters?

Vehicles made before 1981 had less than 17 characters. The system was not standardized at the time. VIN encryption depended on the manufacturer. It is highly recommended to use this decoding method for vehicles manufactured post-1981. Additionally, there are several sites that allow you to look up VIN numbers and details for free. You can decode them using online VIN Decoders.


Purchasing a second-hand car can prove stressful and nerve-wracking. Making the wrong choice could result in a disaster. The best way to ensure your purchase is free from issues is to do as much research as possible ahead of time. Arm yourself with knowledge and you will save yourself from making a costly mistake.