How to know if a car is stolen in the United States

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The rate of stolen cars in the used vehicle market has been increasing, so it is always advisable to take certain precautions to know if a car is stolen.

If you’re trying to save a little money, buying a new car may not be an option. Perhaps the most convenient alternative is to buy a used car. They are cheaper and may be in good condition.

To make a safe purchase and avoid future problems, we will leave you some tools that will help you check if a car is stolen or not. Discover with us the alarm signals and learn how to verify the theft report in a few steps.

How to know if an American car is stolen

There are several ways to check if a car is stolen: you can check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), check American plates, or review the records of the mechanical service.

According to the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau or National Insurance Crime Office), thefts from private vehicles increased by 8% in 2021 compared to 2020.

One of the factors related to this increase is the rise in used car prices, which are at all-time highs. This situation could be encouraging illegal trade.

It is logical to assume that the availability of stolen cars in the United States has increased. Hence, it is key to use a system to check the license plates or the VIN.

How to know if a car is stolen with the VIN

The main tool to check the series of an American car is the VINWhat is the VIN and how to find it? It is the Vehicle Identification Number of the car; a serial number that is made up of letters and numbers, and that contains all the information of the car.

The VIN may be stamped in various places on the car, such as the dashboard, under the hood, the front bumper, above the tires, or the front door frame. It also appears on the car’s documents, such as the car title or insurance policy.

The best way to find out if a car is stolen with the VIN is by using the free VINCheck platform, designed by the NICB. To do it:

  • Visit the NICB website.
  • Enter the VIN code in VINCheck.
  • Accept the terms and conditions.
  • Click the “I’m not a robot” box.
  • Press “Search VIN”. The page will throw you if that VIN is associated with a theft or has been reported stolen.

Verify stolen car with VIN

Retrieved from

If the car is in the database, call the NICB or the police to report a stolen car. The NICB advises the public not to confront the seller.

NOTE: The VIN can also be used to find out if your motorcycle is stolen. You will find this serial number under the seat, on the engine box, behind the headlight, on the fork, on a tag, or on a rail on the motorcycle.

How to check if a car is stolen by license plates

If for some reason you don’t have the vehicle’s VIN, you can do a United States license plate query. Most VIN platforms allow you to track a car by license plate number.

Of course: be careful! Although there are systems to check American license plates that are free, you could be exposing your personal information.

We recommend choosing providers approved by the NMVTIS (National Motor Vehicle Title Information System), a government agency that tries to prevent the sale of stolen cars.

Although they will charge you a fee, ranging from $1 to $60, they can be a good investment: you will get a complete and reliable report without putting your personal data at risk.

How to know if a car has a theft report

There are at least three ways to get a stolen car report: you can request the vehicle’s history with the VIN or with the plates, check the mechanical records, or consult the insurers.

vehicle history

Not all car thefts are reported right away. Since only vehicles that have been stolen appear in the VINCheck database, you can further investigate with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Most states across the country allow you to request a stolen car report for the title in exchange for a small fee. Perform title searches using the VIN the seller sent you on sites like :

The returned report will list all accidents, including total losses ( salvage or salvage title ) and salvages ( rebuilt or rebuilt title ) that have been reported to the insurance companies.

This report will also contain valuable information about the current owner of the car. Having all this in your hands, you will be able to compare the information received with the data of the seller, even if it is a dealer.

If you can’t or don’t want to pay an extra fee to find out if a car is stolen, don’t worry: here’s how to tell if a car is stolen for free.

service records

Service records provide a complete history of technical overhauls the vehicle has had over time. Every time a car enters a shop, the mechanic generates a report.

The mechanical reports allow you to verify if a car is stolen since, if the characteristics described in the reports do not match those of the offered car, you could be facing a cloned VIN.

In many cases, a vehicle’s history will also contain service records. Both documents will give you everything you need to know if a car is stolen or not.

Check with insurers

Car insurance companies have their own database with information on their insured cars, including those reported as stolen. This will allow you to consult the theft report directly in the insurance.

You can go to your insurance company to verify that the thieves have not cloned or transferred the VIN to a second car.

How to tell if a vehicle is stolen by title

The US Department of Justice and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System work with private providers to offer car title verification, albeit for a fee.

Remember that thefts can be detected by checking the VIN or license plate, but also by checking the papers: checking the title of the car is a great way to know if it is real or adulterated.

NMVTIS Approved Car Title Verification Providers
For consumers, businesses, and dealersOnly for companies and dealers
title check

How do I know if my motorcycle is stolen?

Motorcycles, like cars, have a VIN code. Use it to request reports and thus check that the motorcycle is not stolen.

Your motorcycle’s VIN can be found on the engine box, under the seat, or behind the headlight. When you have it, request a report on sites like

Although other platforms, such as, do not issue histories, they do list the vehicle’s manufacturer and description, check digit, model year, and plant code; among other information that will help you to continue investigating.

How to check American stolen cars for free?

We know the economic effort involved in buying a car. One way to save and avoid problems when buying a used one is by requesting a free VIN number verification on pages like these:

  • NICB. Which offers a free tool to check stolen cars, VinCheck. There you can write the VIN of the vehicle to consult or upload a photo of it. It is in English and allows a maximum of five IP searches every 24 hours.
  • Vehicle History. Similar to VinCheck, although it allows you to check by VIN or by state and license plate. In addition, the information it provides is more complete.
  • iSeeCars. The free vehicle history it generates is one of the most detailed, analyzing 200 items including projected depreciation, and car title information; among others.
  • It provides a ten-page report with all the information about the car, such as its current market value or its energy efficiency.
  • AutoCheck. You can check by VIN or by license plate and state. The platform analyzes several factors to rate the vehicle on a scale of 1 to 100. To do this, also consider the history of thefts and replacements.
  • Here you can sell your used car or buy a second hand. To access a full report you must pay. An advantage is that the page is in Spanish and other languages.
  • ClearVIN. It is available in several languages, including Spanish. You can check with the VIN or the license plate of the car. It highlights that it qualifies the vehicle, indicating the overall condition of the car.

Tips to know if a car is not stolen

The best way to know if a car is stolen and avoid a bad purchase is to be cautious. That’s why we recommend you:

  • Ask for a trusted mechanic – Most mechanics will know how to recognize red flags like tampering with the VIN code or odometer tampering. Ask for a consultation!
  • Check that the VIN is the same on all parts – All the serial codes you find on the vehicle should be identical.
  • Compare the VIN of the car with the one on the title and the invoice: Verify that the number that is written in the records matches the VIN of the car. If not, be careful!
  • Check that the VIN has no signs of tampering: if you find screws, perforations, filings, or labels on the VIN; alert, it could be tampered with! The code must be visible and legible in its entirety.

Other signs that could serve as a warning are that the seller refuses to inspect or wants to close the sale in a remote location. Be very careful.

What are the most stolen vehicles in the United States?

Many of the stolen cars in the United States end up on the used car market. Therefore, it would not hurt to review the list of the most stolen vehicles in the United States. In this way, you will know which offers you should review with a magnifying glass.

Most Stolen Vehicles in the USA According to the NICB
ModelYearnumber of robberies
Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full Size)200448,206
Ford Pick-Up (Full Size)200647,999
Honda Civic200031,673
honda accord199730,274
Toyota Camry200717,270
GMC Pick-Up (Full Size)200515,599
Nissan Altima202014,108
honda Crv200013,308
Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee201813,210
Toyota Corolla202012,927

It is worth noting that full-size pick-ups and mid-size sedans are the best-selling cars in the United States. Since there are so many of them on the streets, it is normal that the risk of robbery is greater.

How to verify the VIN?

Check the code located in different parts of the vehicle and make the query in VinCheck of the NICB or in one of the VIN query pages. All you have to do is enter the code and you’re done!

What is the VIN of a vehicle?

The VIN is a 17-character ( capital letters and numbers ) security code. It is recorded on both cars and motorcycles, and also appears on the vehicle’s papers. You can use the VIN on the pages to check theft reports.

Does insurance cover a stolen car?

Only if full coverage was purchased, which covers theft or damage to the vehicle. Collision coverage is optional.

What happens if I buy a recovered car?

A salvaged car is in a legal condition to be driven on the roads. In addition, it allows you to save money since it is usually sold at an attractive price. However, you should examine it to verify that it is 100% safe.

Keep in mind that not all companies insure rebuilt or recovered cars and, if they do, they may put additional conditions because they consider it high risk.

What to do in case of car theft in the USA?

If you have been the victim of a robbery, call the police immediately to file a report. Include in the report all the data you can: license number, VIN, make, model, color, etc.

After the report, contact your insurance company: do it within 24 hours of the theft. Don’t forget to keep a copy of the police report.

How to track a stolen car with license plates?

Sites like VinCheck, Carfax, and AutoCheck can help you track down a car’s license plates. Keep in mind that there are free and paid options.

What happens if I buy a stolen car without knowing it?

If you are found in possession of a vehicle reported stolen or try to search it, the car will most likely be impounded and you will end up in custody, even if you were unaware of the situation.

To avoid disappointment, it’s best to check if a car is stolen before you buy it: request a full report on Carfax or AutoCheck, or other digital VIN verification tools. You can also try to find out the history of the vehicle with the license plates.

How can I know if a car is stolen in Mexico?

Consult the REPUVE. The service is free and, to use it, you will only need the NIV (or VIN) or the license plate of the car or motorcycle. Another alternative is to download the Autofact Report with the vehicle license plate.

How to know if a car is stolen in California for free?

Use the NICB’s VINCheck to check if a car is stolen in California. The tool is free, and while it doesn’t provide a complete history, it will let you know if the car is stolen, has been in an accident, or has a salvage title.,, and are other pages that you can visit to make the query.

How to know the history of a car in the United States?

Ask for the vehicle history on specialized pages, such as VinCheck,, Carfax, or Autocheck. Some are free and others are paid: the amount of information provided will depend on it. To request the report, you need the VIN or license plates.

What can I do if I am sold a car with false papers?

If you notice any irregularities in the paperwork on a newly purchased vehicle, you should immediately report it to the police, the insurance company, and the NICB.

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