There are many paid options to get a vehicle’s history by the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN number). If you are thinking of buying a used car from a dealership, you should definitely expect them to provide a CarFax report. But if you are buying from a private party, it’s your responsibility to do due diligence. So if you’re looking for a little background history on a used car without paying a fee, here is a list of some of our favorite free options. By looking up a car’s VIN number in all of them, you can get a decent picture of the car’s history.

Vehicle History

This is our favorite free option. It provides a pretty comprehensive overview of the vehicle’s history. The vehicle history report is nice, but it doesn’t always include information about sales.

NHTSA Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a tool that allows you to view whether there are any unrepaired recalls associated with a vehicle base on the VIN number you enter. It researches records for the previous 15 calendar years.


The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) provides a free tool that lets you research whether a car has been reported as stolen or has been reported as a salvage vehicle based on data reported to them by insurance companies. It’s definitely important to know whether a vehicle suffered significant damage from an accident or flooding.

NICB VIN Decoder

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) also provides a free tool that gives you a breakdown of the vehicles specifics as provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer. This includes manufacturer, model year, drive train, etc. You can get a full listing by clicking on the “Show All Vehicle Details” link at the bottom of the summary. The details will provide specifics about some of the vehicle’s features installed by the manufacturer.

Using all of these tools can give you a general idea about a vehicle’s history, especially since private sellers don’t always list all the details in ads. But as a precaution, once you are closer to making an offer, it can’t hurt to get a full report from a reputable reporting company such as CarFax.

Category: Home