Yes, it is safe to give out your car’s VIN number under limited circumstances. If you’re selling your car to a private individual or a dealership, you can safely give out the VIN number. However, it’s not something you’ll want to put in an online or print ad.
With most vehicles, anyone can see your VIN number on the dashboard through the front windshield. So, someone could get a hold of your VIN number while you’re parked in an open area or parking lot.
The biggest risk you’ll face with VIN number exposure is what’s known as VIN cloning. This is when someone illegally attaches your VIN number to a stolen car to make it appear legitimate.
This can put you and your car at risk, but your personal information isn’t exposed more than it is already through public records. Let’s look at the purpose of a VIN number, what role it plays in the selling process, and what information it contains.
What is a VIN Number?
Your car’s VIN number is its unique identity. Think of it as your DNA or fingerprint. A VIN number contains details about where the car was made, its model year, the exact make of the car (model and trim levels), and its history.
The VIN number is also connected to any license plates and registration, insurance, and owners. If you own your car outright, you’ll also find the VIN number on the car’s title. The VIN number confirms the car as legitimate, which is why thieves engage in VIN cloning.
With VIN cloning, thieves attempt to pass off a stolen vehicle as legitimate. The practice is called car identity theft. This puts the non-stolen or legitimate vehicle at risk of being confiscated by the police. You may not be aware someone’s cloned your VIN until you try to sell the car.
Should I Give My VIN Number to a Prospective Buyer?
In the majority of cases, yes. You should provide a prospective buyer with your VIN number. However, be smart about it.
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Don’t place your VIN number in online advertisements or on road signs and flyers. If you’re listing your vehicle for sale in forums or on sites like Craig’s List, don’t put it there either. You also should be careful about exchanging your VIN via email or text.
It’s best to meet with prospective buyers in person and only share the VIN number if it seems they have serious intentions about buying the car. Obviously, if you’re trading in your car to a dealer or selling it to them, you’ll need to disclose the VIN number.
A dealer will probably share the VIN number with prospective buyers that view or test drive the car. In addition, a dealer may ask if you’re willing to discuss the vehicle’s history via phone or email with any prospective buyers.
They may ask you questions about the car’s overall performance, repairs you made over the years, or any hiccups you’re aware of. But with the VIN number, a prospective buyer can verify the car is legal and legitimate.
Sharing the VIN number lets the prospective buyer know that you’re trying to be honest and open about the sale. You’re not trying to hide a compromised title or a history that’ll reveal the car is a lemon.
An individual or dealer interested in taking the car off your hands can verify the VIN is on all documentation associated with the vehicle.
What Information Can Be Obtained from a VIN Number?
A VIN number reveals the following information about a vehicle: country or region where it was manufactured, technical attributes, the year it was made, vehicle characteristics including trim level, and the code of the factory that made the car.
VIN numbers also reveal an owner’s name, including who holds the title. So, if you’re currently leasing or paying a loan, the lender’s name will also be associated with the VIN. Someone can figure out the owner’s address and name from the VIN.
But this is not information that can’t be found online through sites, such as White Pages or online voter registration information. While you can remove some of this, there’s always the possibility someone will ask for a copy of public records associated with your name.
These records can include vehicle registration and taxes you’ve paid as the owner or driver of the vehicle.
Can Someone Find My Address with My VIN Number?
Yes, through public records someone could find your address with your VIN number. But if you’re meeting prospective buyers in person, chances are you’re already giving out your address so they can look at the car.
If you’re selling to a dealer, they’ll ask for your address as part of the documentation process, especially if you’re trading your car in for a new one.
Someone can also trace your address through your vehicle’s license plate or look up your name online and find your address on a directory site. So, your VIN number is not the only way your address is revealed.
Can You Run a VIN to see if it’s Stolen?
Yes, you can run a VIN for free through the National Insurance Crime Bureau to see if the car is stolen. A VIN will reveal if an owner, salvage yard, or dealership reported the car as stolen. However, you shouldn’t rely on a VIN search alone due to cloning.
You can also run a title search on the car and check with local government agencies. You can also ask your insurance company to take a look at the car.
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A car’s VIN number serves as its identity and record of its history. This includes where and when the vehicle was made, its features, and a list of owners. A VIN number is usually tied to a car’s license plates, registration records, insurance policies, and titles.
While you should release a car’s VIN number to prospective buyers and it is generally safe to do so, be smart and discreet about it.