back to articles | March 31, 2020 | Douglas Parker

Categories:   Tips & Insights For Car Buying    Auto Loans & Financing    Vehicle & Buying Research   

Using VIN Numbers To Check Car Accident History

Spending your hard-earned cash on a vehicle is usually not made lightly. Not to mention, it's a necessity for the vast majority of us who use our vehicles to get to and from work. Using the VIN, you can check the vehicle for its reported history.


Buying a car requires a significant outlay, whether it's brand new or used. People spend their hard-earned cash on cars and are typically purchases that are not made lightly. Not to mention, it's a necessity for the vast majority of us who use our vehicles to get to and from work.

It is for that reason that it's super important to understand the history of the car, especially if it has been in any accidents. Unfortunately, from time to time you get people who sell their cars without disclosing that it has been in an accident. This typically drives down the value of the vehicle and has the potential to put people off buying the car. If you end up getting scammed by one of these people, then you'll soon be off to visit a DUI lawyer to open up a case against them.

Fortunately, we can avoid all that if we check the full history of the car beforehand. We can usually find out if the car has an accident history or not, allowing us to make a better-informed choice. To do this, we use something called a VIN.

What is a VIN number?

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN number) is a unique 17 digit alphanumeric identifier that is given to every vehicle. They are clearly visible on the driver's side dashboard, at the base of the windshield and elsewhere on the body of the car. It serves as the car's unique identity code, which allows us to track its history due to the fact that it can never be changed.

Car registration and other documents can be changed if the owner wishes, but you cannot alter the VIN. It is assigned during the manufacturing of the car and remains with it until the car is destroyed.

Each number of the VIN has it's significance. Here is a list of what each of the numbers represents. You can search each of the numbers of your cars VIN to find the corresponding information if you wish:

  • Digit 1: Manufacturer location
  • Digits 2 and 3: The manufacturing company
  • Digits 4-8: Engine type and size
  • Digit 9: Manufacturer security code
  • Year of the Model
  • Manufacturing plant
  • Digits 12 to 17: Vehicle serial number

TIP: Does the the 17 digit VIN#'s on the door, hood, engine, dashboard all exactly match? If not, then the car has been altered, and you should steer clear.

Where to get vehicle history reports?

VIN checks typically list any accidents where an insurance claim has been made, in addition to the registrations by state and so on. But where do we find this information?

Well, the good news is that there are many resources out there for you to search for the VIN number on. For these services, you will have to pay a small fee to get a comprehensive vehicle report, but this is a small price to pay considering the fact that you could be dodging a bullet buying a faulty vehicle.

Car History Report: Which One Is Right For You?

The paid options will all give you a comprehensive report that will detail pretty much all you need to know about the car's history. If it has been logged, then the chances are they will show up on the VIN.

If you are using the free options, then your results will be a little bit more limited. If you are going to use a free option, then we recommend that you use the NICB.


The National Insurance Crime Bureau will give you a straightforward report for free. This will show you the key information about the car's past, such as:

  • If it has been lost or stolen
  • Salvaged or not
  • Has it been declared a total loss in the past?

Bottom Line

So there you have it. If you are going to buy a used car, then it is definitely worth taking the time to go get a VIN report to check the car's accident history and anything else that may be worth knowing before you splash your hard-earned cash.

It's always better to use a paid VIN search to get a comprehensive report. If you don't want to do that, then at the very least, make sure you take a moment to do a free VIN report with the websites we have listed in this article to keep yourself safe.