With over 20 years under the hood, I’ve seen it all when it comes to buying used cars. As a professional mechanic, I know running a VIN check is absolutely essential to avoid landing a lemon. Decode a vehicle’s DNA before purchase and gain the upper hand.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to locate the VIN, understand each character’s meaning, and use free and paid history reports to uncover a car’s past. I’ll explain why VIN checks are crucial for Washington vehicles, how to spot odometer rollbacks and title brands, and additional resources for WA drivers. Arm yourself with inside information so your next used car deal in Washington is a smooth ride. Let’s pop the hood and take a closer look!
What is a VIN
The VIN code (Vehicle Identification Number) is a unique 17-digit code assigned to every vehicle sold in the United States. This code contains key details about the car like make, model, year, engine specs, and manufacturing information.
How to Find the VIN
Locating the 17-digit VIN is required to run a vehicle history check. Here are the steps to find it:
- Cars – The VIN is usually located on the driver’s side dashboard and is visible through the windshield. It can also be found on the driver’s door jamb.
- Motorcycles & ATVs – Check the steering headstock near the handlebars or the frame under the seat.
- Trailers – Look for the VIN plate on the front left side of the trailer tongue or safety chains.
If the VIN is missing or obscured, ask the seller to provide the full serial number. This is required to complete a Washington VIN lookup.
Reasons to Run a Washington VIN Check
Running a car VIN number lookup is always advisable when purchasing a used car, but it is especially important for vehicles registered in the state of Washington.
Here are the top reasons you should make VIN number lookup an essential step before buying a used car in Washington:
Check for Accidents
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission‘s Collision Data Summary, there were over 110,000 reported motor vehicle accidents in the state in 2020 alone. A VIN check can reveal if the car you are considering was involved in any previous wrecks. This helps avoid cars with significant structural damage or repair histories that were not properly disclosed.
Check for Title Brands
Washington vehicle titles can be branded if the car has sustained certain types of damage. This includes brands like salvage, rebuilt, junk, hail damage and flood damage. Once a title is branded, the designation remains with the car permanently to alert future owners. A VIN lookup will uncover any potentially concerning brands issued by Washington’s Department of Licensing.
Check for Open Recalls
Auto manufacturers issue safety recalls when vehicles have defects or issues that require repairs. However, not all cars receive the necessary fixes. Running a VIN check lets you see recall information and whether the specific car you are looking at still has outstanding recalls that need to be addressed.
Check for Odometer Rollbacks
Odometer fraud involves criminals altering the vehicle’s mileage to make it appear to have less wear and tear. This unlawful practice is more common than many realize. A Washington VIN report can compare reported odometer readings over time to check for fraudulent rollbacks.
Check for Theft
According to the Washington State Patrol, over 30,000 motor vehicles were stolen in Washington in 2021. A paid VIN check can instantly let you know if the car has been reported stolen or has a stolen vehicle title brand applied by the WA DMV. This protects against buying a ride that may be confiscated if recovered.
Understanding Your Washington VIN Check Report
Once you enter the VIN and run your search, you will receive a detailed vehicle history report within seconds. The information provided depends on the provider, and if it is a free or a more detailed paid version, but can include:
- Accident history – See if the car has previous accident damage.
- Number of owners – More owners can mean more wear and tear.
- Odometer readings – Check for rollbacks signaling potential mileage fraud.
- Title information – Discover title brands like salvage, rebuilt, or lemon law buyback.
- Total loss history – See if the car has ever been deemed a total loss by insurers.
- Theft records – Check databases for theft reports or stolen vehicle title brands.
- Open recalls – View outstanding safety recalls requiring immediate attention.
- Service history – Check for maintenance and repair records when available.
- Registration details – See registration history and statuses like expired, active, permanent, etc.
- Vehicle specs – Year, make, model, trim, engine, transmission and other data decoded from the VIN.
Be sure to carefully review all details in the Washington VIN check report before making a final purchasing decision. Discuss any concerns with the seller and use the findings to negotiate the fairest price.
Additional Resources for Washington Drivers
For Washington motorists, a few other state-specific resources are helpful to know:
- Washington Department of Licensing – The DOL handles vehicle registrations, driver’s licensing, and titles. Check their website for information on requirements.
- Emissions and Safety Inspections – The DOL has inspection station locators and details on getting your car inspected.
- Washington State Patrol VIN Inspections – The WSP offers free VIN inspections to verify a vehicle’s identity before transferring ownership.
- Car Insurance Laws – Drivers must carry at least 25/50/10 minimum liability coverage. Review requirements.
- Impaired Driving Laws – Washington has strict repercussions for DUIs, DWIs and related violations. Know the laws to avoid fines and license suspension.
Why We Are the Best Washington VIN Check Service
Here at Mechanic Answer, we don’t just provide online mechanic help, but we also gleefully provide the most thorough Washington VIN check reports, both free and paid. Our team has decades of experience helping customers across Washington make smarter used car purchase decisions.
When you run a VIN lookup through us, you get instant access to the comprehensive facts you need to avoid buying a potentially unsafe or worthless used car in Washington. Our VIN lookup scans over 6 billion records to deliver the full story about any vehicle.
Rather than providing just the basics, our WA VIN decoder and license plate search includes everything like title brands, accident history, open recalls, odometer verification, theft reports, lien info, and much more. We are trusted by dealers and individual buyers alike as the go-to resource for dependable Washington VIN checks that maximize value and minimize risk.
The Bottom Line
A Washington VIN check is a quick, affordable way to make an informed used car purchase. By taking a few minutes to decode the Vehicle Identification Number, you gain the power to make a smart buying decision. With the ability to spot concerns like accident damage, odometer fraud, title brands, and outstanding recalls, you can avoid future headaches and negotiate the fairest deal.
So before you finalize any used car purchase in WA, turn to the facts and run a comprehensive VIN history report. Your dream car awaits…just make sure to check the VIN first!
Washington VIN Check Frequently Asked Questions
How do I look up a VIN number in Washington state?
You can lookup a VIN in Washington through the state's Department of Licensing. They offer an online VIN search tool to instantly check VIN numbers registered in WA. You can also perform a free VIN check through third party websites like DMV.org and VehicleHistory.com, we recommend performing a VIN lookup with Mechanic Answer to get a full vehicle history report.
Can I run a VIN number for free?
Yes, you can perform a free VIN check instantly online using tools from websites like mechanic answer and the NHTSA. Our free VIN lookups validate the VIN and provide basic specs and recall data. For a full vehicle history report, Mechanic Answer works with VinCheckUp to provide affordable paid reports that deliver even more information.
How to check if a vehicle is stolen for free Washington State?
To check if a vehicle is stolen in Washington for free, use the WA DOL's VIN search tool. This will indicate if the car has been reported stolen. You can also contact the WA State Patrol to run a free stolen vehicle VIN search. Paid VinCheckUp with Mechanic Answer can provide reports also include stolen vehicle checks.
What is a Washington state VIN inspection?
A Washington VIN inspection verifies the vehicle identification number on a car matches the VIN on its title/registration documents. This is required when titling a used car purchased from an individual. VIN inspections are performed by WA licensed auto dealers or state patrol offices.
Should you check VIN before buying?
Yes, it's highly recommended to check a vehicle's VIN before purchase. A VIN check verifies the car's history for accidents, title issues, odometer rollbacks, theft, recalls, and other problems. VIN checks provide peace of mind and are essential for making an informed used car purchase.