How to Know if The Car You're Buying is Stolen

By Emily Sakzewski. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Know if The Car You're Buying is Stolen

Buying a second hand car is a great way of saving money as a new car will lose around 40% of their value within the first year. But when you're buying a used car, you don't get the formal paperwork and assurances that you would when buying a brand new car. If someone offers you a great deal, it can be tempting to snap up the offer and not ask questions. However, you should consider the possibility that the car you're buying is stolen. This OneHowTo article will explain some general tips and checks you can make in order to know if the car you're buying is stolen.

You may also be interested in: What to Check When Inspecting a Used Car

Beware of Cloned Cars

From the outset, you should be wary of purchasing a cloned car. This occurs when someone takes a license plate, vehicle identification number (VIN) and stickers from a legal car and attaches them to a stolen car of a similar make and model. Even though a car might seem to have all the legitimate documentation, you should still be thorough in checking if the car you're buying is stolen.

Conduct Vehicle Registration Inquiry

Even before meeting with the seller, ask them for the registration number, make and model of the car. Most countries or states provide online registration inquiry services where you can check to see if the details the seller has provided match the official records. A registration inquiry will show you whether the seller is the registered owner of the car.

Check the Paperwork

Do a thorough check of the paperwork the seller provides you. Make sure to get the VIN as this number will be unique to the vehicle and not shared with any other car. You can find the VIN on the car's title paperwork, registration papers or insurance policy documents. Get a vehicle history report. The report should list accident damage, recalls, title problems and the state or country the car is registered in. Ask to see the vehicle registration certificate, or log book. Make sure the details in these documents such as the vehicle identification number and engine number match the details you've been given.

How to Know if The Car You're Buying is Stolen - Check the Paperwork

Government Database Search

Another thing is to conduct a VIN check. Most countries or states have websites that give criminal information associated with insurance claims. A check like this will tell you if the car you're buying is reported as stolen to an insurance company. Similarly, a government motor department website should provide more information about stolen vehicles.

Inspect the Car

When you go to inspect the car, bring a mechanic or someone you know who is knowledgable about cars with you. Arrange to inspect the car at the seller's house, that way if anything goes wrong after the sale, you have proof of their address. We also recommend that you arrange to inspect the car in daylight when it hasn't been raining as it can be harder to spot damage when the car is wet. Check the exterior, interior and check the tyres. Take the car for a 15 minute test drive, making sure to drive on different types of roads. For a more thorough checklist you should consult our article on what to check when you're inspecting a used car.

Trust Your Instincts

If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don't be rushed into your decision to buy. Instead, take your time and trust your instincts. If the seller seems too eager to sell, or cannot provide the proper paperwork, they might not be legitimate. Don't be afraid to walk away from a deal. It's better to walk away than to buy the car, only to find out later that it was stolen and have it taken off you, leaving you out of pocket and out of a car.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Know if The Car You're Buying is Stolen, we recommend you visit our Cars category.

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