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How to tell if you’re buying a stolen car Advertiser Disclosure Advertiser Disclosure We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make better financial decisions by providing you with financial calculators and interactive tools, publishing original and objective content. This allows users to conduct research and compare information for free to help you make sound financial decisions. Bankrate has partnerships with issuers, including but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Earn Profit The offers that appear on this site come from companies who pay us. This compensation can affect the way and when products are featured on this site, including such things as the order in which they may appear within the listing categories, except where prohibited by law for our mortgage or home equity products, as well as other home lending products. But this compensation does not influence the information we publish, or the reviews that you see on this site. We do not contain the entire universe of businesses or financial offerings that could be accessible to you.
4 min read. Published October 11, 2022
Written by Kellye Guinan. Written by personal and Business Finance Contributor
Kellye Guinan is a freelance editor and writer who has more than 5 years experience working in the field of personal financial matters. She’s also a full-time librarian at the local library which she assists her local community to access information about financial literacy, as well as other topics.
Editor: Helen Wilbers Edited by
Helen Wilbers has been editing for Bankrate from late 2022. He believes in clear reporting that helps readers easily get deals and make best choices for their finances. He is a specialist in small and auto loans.
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With the cost of new cars hitting the record-setting levels, you may be thinking about purchasing a used vehicle. Be cautious — car theft is spiking, and you don’t want to purchase a vehicle that has been stolen. In 2021, 932,329 vehicles were reported stolen, up 10.9 percent over 2020 According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). There’s also the possibility that the car you are considering buying may be a copy of a vehicle. Car cloning occurs the process where a car burglar steals the license plate and registration stickers from a legal vehicle and puts the same on a stolen vehicle with a similar model and model. The thief also might use counterfeit documents to sell you a brand new car. Be careful when purchasing from a private seller or a dealer. And if something feels strange, you should look elsewhere. There are plenty of used vehicles available for sale. 6 steps to check if the car you’re buying is stolen. To be safe from the stress of purchasing a fake car, make sure you take these steps. 1. Check the VIN thoroughly. You can verify the with government agencies and the department of motor vehicles. You can also verify the vehicle’s VIN via the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VIN Check service, suggests Renee Valdes, senior advice editor at Kelley Blue Book. This service is free and will inform you whether there are insurance records of a stolen vehicle, which includes one that has not yet been recovered. “Some vehicles put the VIN inside the front driver door or on the windshield, and some owners can have the VIN printed on the windows or inside the engine” states Valdes. “Carmakers want to make it more difficult for criminals to steal VINs and create counterfeit VINs.” It is possible that the VIN may also be stamped onto the dashboard of the vehicle. Be cautious, especially when it comes to numbers and letters that appear similar. Since the VIN is required to be found in several locations, look at each one to see if they match. If they don’t it could be because they were tampered with. 2. Buy a report on the history of your vehicle. Request a report on the history of your vehicle using the VIN and suggests Valdes. Businesses that provide car history reports include . “These reports aren’t too expensive, and they’re worth it,” says Valdes. Reports on the history of a vehicle include things such as Service history, Title information Liens held on the vehicle’s history of accident and damage Previous owners But although the report will show the names of the previous owners, it won’t list the names of the owners. “If you can trace the past complete to the present it’s likely that it’s been well-maintained and isn’t stolen,” says Valdes. However, if there are any gaps in the history, or the car isn’t up to the present, it could indicate that the vehicle has been stolen. 3. Perform a title search can search for a vehicle’s title using the . If the person who is trying to sell the car isn’t listed as the owner on the title you’ll be able to tell that the car is stolen. The car’s title can help you determine any differences between what the seller has to say versus what’s on the title, like in the case of a and the mileage when it was sold last. 4. Ask the seller for the service records of the vehicle If the seller can show the receipts for maintenance you have a better chance it is not a stolen car as explained by Valdes. Check to see if the VIN the make, model and year on the receipts match the vehicle. Check the maintenance records against the history of your vehicle report to determine if they’re in alignment. “A car is often the second biggest purchase for consumers,” says Valdes. “I always treated my car as if I’d be selling it one day and that means taking proper care of it and getting regular oil changes.” In addition, inquire whether you are able to get the previous bill of sale from when the seller first purchased the car. It’s not too late to inquire about the contact details of the seller and what they originally purchased the vehicle for. An honest seller should not hesitate to provide you with the information you need. 5. Request your insurance company to inspect your car. Ask your insurance company if they’re willing to check cars for safety, and any signs of fraud. You should still do yourself due due diligence but your insurance company might be able find additional details to verify that your vehicle is safe and legal board. Furthermore, certain states and insurance companies could require an inspection of your car prior to you . This usually happens prior to the insurance company approves the auto insurance policy. And usually, it is only necessary if you’re purchasing certain types of coverage for example . 6. Be sure to trust your gut. If the price seems too good to be real, or the seller is incredibly eager to sell you the vehicle and is encouraging you to skip the deal, go with your gut. There are many sellers, as well as used vehicle dealerships there are many genuine options available. You might notice a difference from what the vendor informs you about the vehicle and what you find out during your investigation. This isn’t necessarily a sign of a problem. Not every car owner keeps detailed records. If the car has been purchased and sold multiple times, it could have certain information that is not there. However, if you find any irregularities that aren’t explained then walk away. What to do if the vehicle you’re purchasing is stolen? If you discover that the vehicle you’re purchasing is stolen, file a police report. You must provide your purchase bill and any pertinent documents and other information. If the vehicle you bought was stolen, or is a “cloned car,” it was never truly yours. This means you are not the legal owner of the vehicle, and it will be taken away and given to the rightful owner. If a claim for theft has already been issued to the insurance company, then the car will be returned to the insurance company. If it is not, it will be considered a loss. If you’re not buying the car yet, walk away from the car and do not look at it, suggests Valdes. Once you’re sure to do so, you can file the police report. The key point is that as criminals are becoming more clever and more sophisticated, be aware of potential dangers and research the car thoroughly, suggests Valdes. This means doing a Google lookup of the VIN or requesting a car history report, and asking for additional documents and information to identify any signs of theft. “Don’t let yourself be swayed from taking every precaution, especially in this white-hot used automobile market,” says Valdes.
Written by Business and personal finance contributor
Kellye Guinan is a freelance editor and writer with more than 5 years experience working in the field of personal financial matters. She is also a full-time worker at her local library where she helps her community get information about financial literacy, in addition to other subjects.
Edited by Helen Wilbers Edited by
Helen Wilbers has been editing for Bankrate from late 2022. He is a fan of transparent reporting that allows readers to confidently find deals and make the best decisions for their financials. He specializes in auto and small business loans.
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