How to Tell if a Car is Stolen?

Are in the market for a used car? If you are, and especially if you are planning to purchase your vehicle from a private seller, then you need to check whether it’s stolen or not.

Checking with the National Insurance Crime Bureau

Of course, there is no way to definitively tell whether a car is stolen or not just by looking at it. Fortunately, you do not necessarily have to sell out a lot of money for a vehicle history report. The insurance companies around the country have gotten together and created a database of vehicles that have been stolen, but not recovered. If you go to the National Insurance Crime Bureau website (www.nicb.org), you can enter the VIN of any vehicle for a free report. BE SURE TO READ THE TERMS OF SERVICE CAREFULLY. The site also allows you to see if the vehicle has ever had a salvage title. The site says that:

”NICB’s VINCheck is a service provided to the public to assist in determining if a vehicle has been reported as stolen, but not recovered, or has been reported as a salvage vehicle by cooperating NICB members.”

That statement reveals the one weakness of the site… its database only includes titles reported by cooperating members. While that is only a slight weakness, it still leaves the possibility that a few vehicles may slip through the cracks. Another reliable site is dmv.org’s stolen car search. This is not a government affiliated site, but it has been around for a long time and there is a lot of good information available for free.

Red Flags That May Indicate a Stolen Vehicle

While there is no way to tell if a car is stolen just by looking at it, there are a few signs that should tip you off that there is something fishy about a car, though.

  • The VIN is altered or disguised in any way.
  • The VIN does not match the title.
  • The title has been lost.
  • The price is absurdly low.
  • The seller only accepts cash, but is not willing to let you seek financing.
  • The seller is nervous at all times and seems in a great hurry to sell.
  • The seller is not willing to accompany you to a notary public to transfer the title.

Any of these should raise a flag for you. You may have the “fever” for the car you’re considering, but you have to keep your wits about you and be prudent, especially in this era of Craigslist scams. It may turn out to be a false negative, but you have to be sure before spending your hard-earned cash.