Locate Motor Vehicle by VIN Number

A car is tracked throughout its existence through a Vehicle Identification Number. Car repair shops, police stations, title and registration offices submit reports that show the location of the vehicle. The process you use to search for a car by the VIN number depends on the purpose for your search. You can find out how to locate a motor vehicle by VIN number by reading this article and choosing the best method.


VIN Number Theft Search

  1. Find your VIN number. Although the easiest way to find a car's VIN number is by looking inside the car itself, there are several other methods for locating it:
    • Request a copy of the car title. This title, as well as the registration, should include the unique VIN number.
    • Find body shop records. Car shops keep track of the VIN number and report on the changes they have made to it. This is a way that a VIN-based car report can be very comprehensive.
    • Look in police reports, recall reports and other miscellaneous car data. The VIN number should appear on all these items. You can also ask a former owner of the car to locate some of this data.
  2. Report your vehicle missing to the authorities. Local and state police will use the VIN number, as well as the license plate number, make and model, to track down a stolen car.
  3. Go to the VinCheck website if you suspect a car of being stolen. The National Insurance Crime Bureau allows you to conduct 5 VIN searches from a single IP address.
    • The website is nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck.
    • Enter your VIN number under "Enter VIN."
    • Agree to the terms and conditions. Then, enter a verification code. Click "Search" when you are finished.
    • VinCheck will peruse all reports of stolen, salvage and lost vehicles from the past 5 years. It will show the current location, if available.

Vehicle History Report

  1. Find the VIN on the car records. You may have also written it down from the car itself.
    • The VIN is usually placed on the driver's side of the car in the door jamb, near the rear wheel or on the front of the engine block.
  2. Go to AutoCheck, at dmv.org/vehicle-history.php, or CARFAX, at carfax.com, to purchase a vehicle history report.
    • The cost of the report will be between $30 and $40. This expense is an important part of a buyer's due diligence, to ensure that the car is legally owned and serviced.
  3. Enter the VIN number at the top of the vehicle history report search screen.
  4. Enter your credit card details and search.
  5. Print out the full vehicle history report. It should show a chronological history of the places where the car was registered, titled and serviced. The last known registration or service should be the most recent location of the vehicle.

Things You'll Need

  • VIN number
  • VinCheck website
  • AutoCheck/Carfax website
  • $30 to $40
  • Printer
  • Vehicle History Report

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Sources and Citations