You Need to Know This Before Buying A Used Car

We received an interesting, and critical, education while looking for our recent used car.

What's the hardest thing about buying a used car? Knowing that the car you're getting is a good, reliable, damage-free car. And there's always that fear that the seller isn't telling you everything. Besides checking the Carfax, doing a good thorough test drive (several checklists are available online) and getting a mechanic to check it out, there is one more thing to check out - VIN stickers. What amazes me is that I've never heard of this before, yet when we asked multiple dealers they acknowledged this was true.

Here's the skinny on VIN stickers. When cars are made, the manufacturer puts a sticker with the car's VIN # on each panel of the car. These stickers are made to shatter if they are damaged or someone tries to remove them. This means that if a sticker is missing, that panel has been replaced (or some idiot tried to peal it off). If a car is missing a couple stickers then it's a good bet that it's been in an accident and had some body work done, and it turns out that not all accidents are reported to Carfax.

When we were car shopping we drove a couple cars that were missing stickers on the driver door and the engine block on the same side. One of these cars drove a little bumpy, the other had a suspicious clicking noise when making a hard left turn. The dealer only pointed to a "clean Carfax" and when we asked about the VIN stickers, suggested that maybe those panels had been replaced because they were scratched. That could be true, but having 2 missing stickers, especially one in the engine area, and a funny noise, was enough to convince us to move on.

It helps to check out a car of the same brand you're looking at to see where all the VIN stickers are on that type of car. Depending on the car, you can find these VIN stickers in the following places (look for red rectangles in the pictures):
  • 3 under the hood: 1 on the panel that lifts up and 1 on each side of the engine block
  • on the inside of each door
  • if you have a van they are on the back of the sliding door and the inside front of the non-movable door panel piece
  • on the inside of the trunk or hatch
  • on the bumper? (I haven't found one on either of my cars so I'm not sure about this one)

1 comment:

Debbie / Cranberry Fries said...

Pretty cool I never knew that every piece was supposed to have vin numbers on it.