With over 20 years of experience buying and selling used cars, I know firsthand how essential it is to run a vehicle history check before making a purchase. As a quaified mechanic, I want to empower fellow Wisconsin drivers to make informed decisions and avoid buying lemons.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about decoding a vehicle’s unique VIN, how to locate the VIN on a car, what key details VIN reports reveal, and where Wisconsin drivers can access free and paid VIN lookups. By uncovering a car’s complete background through its VIN prior to purchase, you can evaluate its condition, verify ownership, and protect your investment.
Read on and I’ll walk you through how to use VIN checks to buy and sell used vehicles in Wisconsin with confidence and peace of mind.
What Is A VIN (vehicle identification number)
To put it simply, a VIN is a 17-digit code made up of letters & numbers that are specific to a vehicle. Unlike a license plate each VIN is specific to that vehicle. Every vehicle that comes out of the factory will have its own unique 17-digit serial code. The VIN allows for easy record-keeping, checking, and updating for a vehicle. The numbers and letters each hold information on a vehicle:
- Make, model, and year: The VIN’s first characters identify the vehicle manufacturer, model, body style, engine size, and model year. This helps verify if the seller’s description matches the actual vehicle.
- Production details: Later VIN characters indicate the factory, production sequence, and optional features. This information is useful for obtaining replacement parts.
- Accident history: Through the VIN, you can access accident reports, insurance claims, and title brands indicating flood, hail, or salvage damage.
- Ownership history: Check how many owners the car has had, whether it was part of a rental or corporate fleet, and if there are any outstanding liens.
- Recall status: Find out if the vehicle is subject to any manufacturer safety recalls that haven’t been addressed.
Checking the VIN before purchase enables you to make an informed decision and negotiate fair value. It reduces the risk of buying a car with undisclosed problems.
How to Find a Vehicle’s VIN in Wisconsin
The first step to running a VIN search is locating the 17-character VIN on the vehicle. Here are some of the most common VIN locations to check:
- The lower left corner of the dashboard, visible through the windshield
- Driver’s side door jamb
- Front of the engine block
- Vehicle registration and insurance paperwork
- Vehicle title
If you’re still struggling to find the VIN, contact the manufacturer or dealership for guidance. When buying a used car, double-check that the seller provides you with the correct VIN before running your search.
What Does a Wisconsin VIN Report Show?
A VIN look up taps into powerful databases to reveal crucial details about a vehicle’s past. Here’s a rundown of what’s included:
Accident history: See if the vehicle has been in any reported crashes, along with accident totals, severity levels, and repair details. This helps assess potential safety issues.
Title information: Check for brands like “salvage” or “rebuilt” that indicate past damage. Be wary of total loss vehicles.
Ownership history: Verify the number of previous owners and rule out red flags like short holding periods.
Mileage history: Confirm the odometer readings match records to catch illegal mileage tampering.
Recall status: View any open safety recalls that need to be addressed before driving the vehicle. Recalls are serious safety hazards.
Theft records: Check databases for stolen vehicle records and active theft warnings to avoid buying a stolen car.
Registration/taxes paid: See if previous owners stayed up to date on registration and taxes, an indicator of overall vehicle care.
Damage history: Look for reported flood, fire, hail, or other damage from police and insurance records.
Vehicle use: Learn if it was ever a rental, taxi, fleet, or lease vehicle. Their extensive use can speed up wear and tear.
And more! Including lienholders, emissions records, inspection history, and valuations.
Accessing this history information paints a complete picture of how a vehicle has been used and cared for. It’s invaluable for making an informed buying choice.
Why Check a Wisconsin VIN Number?
Running a VIN search protects your investment by revealing any hidden issues with a used vehicle. Here are some top reasons for getting a VIN report:
- Avoid buying a wreck: Accident history helps gauge crash severity to see if the vehicle sustained significant damage.
- Check for title brands: See if the title is marked as salvage, junk, rebuilt, or total loss, which greatly lowers value.
- Verify owner and usage: Check for red flags like short ownership terms or extensive use as a rental or fleet vehicle.
- Catch odometer fraud: Cross reference mileage against records to spot illegal rollback tampering.
- Assess flood or water damage: Flooding can cause hidden electrical and mechanical issues down the road.
- Check for recalls: Open safety recalls must be fixed as soon as possible to avoid injuries or accidents.
- Rule out theft: Checking theft databases prevents unknowingly buying a stolen vehicle.
- Negotiate with confidence: Proving a clean history justifies a higher asking price.
- Make an informed decision: Know the full history before handing over your hard-earned money.
Running a VIN search provides transparency and peace of mind about a used vehicle before buying. It’s affordable insurance against buying a lemon.
How to Check a WI VIN Number
There are two ways Wisconsin drivers can lookup a VIN report:
Paid VIN check services: Services like ours at Mechanic Answer provide full vehicle history reports for a small fee. These affordable services compile thorough VIN data into easy-to-read formats.
Free VIN lookups: Limited free options like our free version, and the NHTSA VIN checker provide basic recall data but lack comprehensive details. Paid services access far more robust vehicle history data.
For the most thorough information, a small investment in a paid VIN check from reputable services pays dividends through peace of mind and financial protection.
What If I Only Have the License Plate Number?
You can still perform a VIN search by using the license plate number through a reverse VIN lookup through services like Bumper. Since plates are tied to a vehicle’s VIN in state motor vehicle databases, services can track down the VIN to deliver a full vehicle history report.
This is helpful when you only have the license plate number handy, such as when viewing certified pre-owned cars on a lot or seeing a for-sale car on the street.
Buying or Selling? How VIN Checks Help
VIN reports are useful both for purchasing and selling vehicles in Wisconsin:
Buying a Car? Run a VIN check to:
- Verify the seller’s claims about vehicle history and condition
- Uncover any hidden title brands, accidents, or damage
- Detect odometer rollback or other seller fraud
- Obtain leverage to negotiate the asking price down
- Make an informed decision on the vehicle’s value
- Check for costly open safety recalls before purchase
- Avoid legal headaches from buying a stolen vehicle
Selling a Car? Show buyers a VIN report to:
- Prove your vehicle has a clean history with no title issues
- Back up claims that it has never been in an accident
- Support your properly recorded mileage statements
- Demonstrate your car was properly registered and maintained
- Justify your higher asking price with documentation
- Quickly build buyer trust and confidence
- Attract buyers willing to pay more for your vehicle
VIN lookups are the fastest way to verify a vehicle’s background when buying or selling in Wisconsin. Don’t skip this essential step. In both cases of buying and selling, a VIN report can help you negotiate a better deal for you, potentially making or saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars!
Important Wisconsin Resources for Drivers
Beyond VIN checks, Wisconsin drivers should be aware of important state vehicle rules and resources:
- Vehicle registration: Cars must be registered within 60 days of sale or moving to WI. Registration must be renewed each year.
- Driver’s licenses: Residents must hold a valid WI driver’s license starting at age 16. The license must be carried when driving.
- Insurance requirements: All WI drivers must carry liability coverage minimums of $25,000 injury per person/$50,000 injury per accident/$10,000 property damage.
- Safety and emissions inspections: Certain counties require annual vehicle inspections to verify roadworthiness and emissions compliance.
- Title transfers: Update the vehicle title within 7 days of buying or selling a car. Title transfers cost $69.50 in Wisconsin.
Stay up to date on all Wisconsin vehicle and driver regulations to avoid fines or penalties.
Wisconsin Vin Lookup Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you find out who owns a vehicle in Wisconsin?
You can find out who owns a vehicle in Wisconsin by requesting a vehicle title search from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the results are usually limited. Mechanic Answer can help you get the full history for a small paid fee. This search provides the name and address of the current registered owner. You'll need to provide details like the vehicle's VIN number or license plate to conduct the search.
How do you run a VIN to see who owns it?
To run a VIN check and see the registered owner, you'll need to use a service that provides VIN decoding and ownership data. Companies like Carfax and Mechanic Answer allow you to enter a vehicle VIN number and pull a report showing the current registered owner, Lien holders, and vehicle history. There is typically a fee for these more comprehensive VIN checks.
Can I run a vehicle VIN number?
Yes, you can run a vehicle identification number (VIN) through various online services to retrieve information about that vehicle. Free VIN checks provide basic details like make, model, and year. Paid services like Carfax allow you to input a VIN and get a full vehicle history report that includes ownership records, title information, accident history, and more. Law enforcement can also run a VIN number to get vehicle data.
Can anyone do anything with your VIN number?
While the VIN number itself is public information, there is limited potential for misuse. Running a basic VIN check only retrieves basic vehicle details. To get more sensitive information connected to a VIN like ownership records, lien holders, and location history requires accessing secure databases that are restricted. Overall, having access to a vehicle's VIN number alone gives very little opportunity for nefarious activity.
Can I run a VIN number for free?
Yes, there are services that allow you to run a free VIN number search to obtain basic vehicle details. Sites like Vin Check Up and Mechanic Answer provide free VIN decoding that gives you information like the make, model, year, and where the car was manufactured. However, these free VIN searches do not include comprehensive ownership history or title information. For that, you generally need to use a paid VIN check service.