What’s a VIN check and why is it valuable? If you’re looking to buy a car, or learn more about the one you already have, a VIN check can provide you with the vehicle’s history using only the VIN. However, it’s important to know what you can and can’t obtain from a VIN check. Keep reading to learn what information can be obtained from a VIN check, how to get one, and how to request additional driver information.
How to do a basic VIN check
If you’re looking to obtain basic information about a vehicle, a VIN check can be conducted on various websites such as VINSearching.com. A VIN check is the process of checking your VIN against the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database. These reports contain basic information regarding a specific vehicle without going through the DPPA process.
What can be revealed with a VIN check?
- Vehicle specifications (year, make, model, engine, fuel type, MSRP, manufacturer, country of origin, trim, transmission, etc.)
- Prior title records (state)
- Theft records (active and prior)
- Junk records
- Salvage records
- Impound/repossession records
- Export records
- Insurance total loss claims
- Lien records
- Odometer discrepancy/tampering
- Parts-only branding
- Lemon law record
- Prior taxi, rental, or commercial use
- Rebuilt/reconstructed brand
- Damage records (flood, hail, fire, etc.)
- Recall information
- Manufacturer buy-back information
- Safety defects
- Dismantle records
- Prior test vehicle
Not every VIN check system will provide all of the information above, and some may provide more. A VIN check will not tell you anything about the vehicle owner, or prior vehicle owners. However, a VIN check can tell you where the vehicle was last titled. If you need to obtain additional information not provided by a VIN check, you can use your knowledge of the last titled state to request the official title records from the state DMV agency via a DPPA request.
What is the DPPA?
The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is a federal statute that protects driver information from being accessed through public records. According to the DPPA, to obtain personal driving information, an individual or organization must submit an official form to the state DMV requesting specific information. To obtain information protected by the DPPA, you must disclose your reasoning in your official request. Just because the DMV receives your official request form doesn’t mean they will give out the information.
Why are driving records private information?
The main reason for driver information being kept private is to keep vehicle owners safe from abusive drivers on the road. Without the protections in place by the DPPA, your license plate is essentially your home address taped to the back of your car. The beginning of the DPPA was sparked by the 1989 murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer. In 1989, a man named Robert Bardo obtained the address of 21-year-old actress Rebecca Schaeffer through the California DMV. He then used this information to stalk her and ultimately took her life. Sadly, this is one of many cases that lead to the enactment of the DPPA.
How to submit a DPPA request for vehicle information
First and foremost, to obtain DPPA-protected information, you must have a legally valid reason. Additionally, be prepared to provide an explanation as to why you should be allowed access to this information and what exactly you plan to do with it. Just because you request the information doesn’t mean the DMV has to give it out if they’re unsure of your intentions.
As long as you have a legally valid reason, to submit a DPPA request you’ll need to know the state where the vehicle was last titled. Use this information to research the DPPA request form for that particular state, even if it’s not the state where the vehicle is currently located. Motor vehicle records are federally protected, but housed by each individual state so wherever the vehicle was last titled is where the vehicle records are physically located. You won’t be able to obtain motor vehicle information from the California DMV if the vehicle was last titled in Texas.
A VIN check is a powerful tool that anyone, regardless of ownership status, can access online. Before purchasing a vehicle, consider running a VIN check to ensure the vehicle you’re about to purchase is represented to you properly. If you are interested in additional information about a vehicle’s history, such as the chain of ownership, you can request this information through the state DMV agency where the vehicle was last titled.