Stolen Vehicle Check

How to Check if a Car is Stolen Before Buying?

A VIN number, or Vehicle Identification Number is a 17-digit number, that serves as the car's unique identity code.
For most vehicles, you can find the VIN on your front driver’s side interior dashboard or the driver’s side door post. Alternatively, you may find it on the vehicle’s insurance and ownership documents.
Example: 4T1C11AK4PU168240

If you're looking to buy a used car, performing a Stolen Vehicle Check or a Stolen VIN Check is crucial. These checks can provide you with valuable information about a vehicle's history, including whether it has been reported stolen.

By accessing the police stolen vehicle database, you can ensure that you're not purchasing a stolen vehicle. Explore what Stolen Vehicle Checks and VIN Checks are, why they're important, and how you can perform them.

What is Stolen Car Check?

A stolen car check is when you run the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) against theft vehicle databases. These databases contain information on reported incidents from various sources such as insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, DMV locations, and individual owners. It’s only by performing a stolen car check that one can have some certainty that the unit has a clean history.

However, searching databases individually can be time-consuming and cumbersome. That's why tools like FAXVIN make it easier to cross-check theft records across various databases with a single VIN stolen car lookup.

FAXVIN also provides other records like liens, title status, odometer readings, accident history and more. With FAXVIN’s stolen VIN check, you can get a comprehensive and reliable vehicle history report in minutes.

What is the Risk of Buying a Stolen Vehicle?

Vehicle theft is a serious and costly problem in the United States. More than 1,020,000 vehicles were stolen in 2023, resulting in a loss of more than $8 billion for vehicle owners (NHTSA). Passenger cars comprised nearly three-quarters of all stolen vehicles.

Please note that there are some factors that may increase the likelihood of purchasing a stolen car including:

  • The city or state you’re sourcing the second-hand car: That’s because certain regions experience higher rates of vehicle theft than others;
  • Vehicle models: Some models are popular with thieves due to their popularity or demand for parts. The most in-demand models in the US include the Toyota Corolla, Camry, Ford F-150, Honda Civic, GMC, and Ram trucks.
  • Keyless car theft: Despite keyless cars comprising the least percentage of cars on the road, many thefts are now being attributed to keyless car theft.

The number of cars stolen in the U.S. surpassed 1M in 2023.

What to Do When Your Car is Stolen?

Panic may set in once your car is stolen. But delaying your next steps can decrease your chances of recovering your car and having a smooth claim process.

The first thing to do is contact the police. Immediately after, you can initiate an insurance claim with your provider.

Report to the Police

Don't wait too long to report your car theft to the police. The sooner you do it, the better your chances of getting your car back. Plus, you can start your insurance claim faster.

The police will need some details about your car to track it down. You can find most of them on your car documents, such as:

  • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number);
  • License plate number;
  • Car year, make, model, and color;

You also need to tell the police:

  • Where and when the car was stolen;
  • What you left inside the car;
  • How your car looks like, for example, any unique identifies like stickers or scratches;
  • If your car has a tracker device that can locate it.

Be honest and detailed when you file your report. The police may ask probing questions to ascertain that you’re telling the truth, as many people are now lying about car theft to cheat their insurance company.

After reporting the theft and obtaining the FIR copy, contact your insurance company right away to file your claim.

Present a Claim for Insurance

Your auto insurance company may require other details about your car and the incident before processing your claim and determining your payout offer. Here are the details you may be required to furnish them with:

  • Car title;
  • Where the keys were before and after the theft;
  • Who had access to the car and how to contact them;
  • Vehicle details, such as mileage, service records, and upgrades;
  • Auto lender contact info if you have one;
  • Insurance policy account number;
  • Police FIR copy;
  • Theft declaration from the RTO.

Insurance companies regularly check your credit to gauge if you’re in financial trouble. If you have mounting amounts of debt and your car gets stolen, they might suspect fraud and deny your claim. That said, falling behind on your bills doesn’t mean that you’re guilty of any crime.

Additionally, don't forget to inform your lender if you're leasing or financing your car. They might allow you to pause your payments for the duration the car is missing.

What Happens if My Stolen Vehicle is Recovered?

Did you know that about 44% of stolen cars in the U.S. are ever found again? And even if your car is among the lucky ones, it might not be in good shape. It could have damage, scratches, dents, or missing parts.

But don't worry. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurance company will have you covered. They will assess how much damage there is and how much your car is worth. Based on this, the company may either fix your car or pay you what it's worth.

Note that if the insurer chooses to pay for the repairs, they only pay for any amount above the deductible. That's the minimum cost you have to pay yourself.

If they decide it's not worth fixing, the insurer pays the actual cash value —what it would sell for in the market. Again, you have to remit the deductible first.

Okay, what if the car shows up after the insurer pays you? Your insurance company will probably take ownership of the recovered car. And if you haven't bought a new car yet, in some cases you can keep the money. Alternatively, you may need to return the claimed amount. Such situations are handled on a case-by-case basis, and you’ll need to consult with them and see what they say.

Top 5 Stolen Vehicles

Here are the top five most stolen cars in the US as of 2023 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB):

  1. Chevrolet Pickup.
    This favorite workhorse is the most stolen vehicle in America, with 48,206 thefts reported in 2021. Thieves are mainly targeting the 2004 model year. Chevy pickups are attractive because they are widely available, retain their value, and haul valuable cargo.
  2. Ford Pickup.
    Another full-size truck that ranks high on the list of most stolen cars is the Ford F-Series, including models like the F-150 and F-250. Ford pickups recorded 44,014 thefts in 2021, with the 2006 model year being the most attractive to thieves.
  3. Honda Civic.
    The Honda Civic is a recurring favorite among automotive thieves, who managed to steal 29,757 units in 2021. The 2000 model year suffered the most thefts, followed by the 1998 and 1997 models.
  4. Honda Accord.
    Another Honda model that features every year in the top 5 most stolen cars is the Honda Accord, recording 28,745 thefts in 2021. Like Civics, Honda Accords are also dependable, economical to run, and have an active market for used parts.
  5. Toyota Camry.
    The Toyota Camry’s popularity has made it a big target for thieves, stealing 25,954 units in 2021. The 2017 model year was the most targeted by criminals, followed by the 2018 and 2019 models.

How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Car

First things first, you need to guard yourself against failing for a stolen second-hand car. You should keep in mind the following safety tips:

  • Confirm that the title and registration match the seller’s name and address;
  • Ask for additional documents for reference such as the car’s insurance policy, importation documents, and financing documents;
  • Check that the VIN on the dashboard or door pillar is intact, with no signs of tampering;
  • The owner’s name on the title should match their government issued ID;
  • Order a full VIN history report that should reveal theft and registration records. (P.S. The last time the ownership changed hands should match the date the owner claims to have bought the car);
  • Be wary of red flags such as cars being sold for bargain prices, and watch out for sellers who don’t want to supply all the information or are in a hurry to get rid of the unit.

Police Stolen Vehicle Database

Police Stolen Vehicle Database

When a vehicle is stolen, the police report the incident to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The stolen car database collects theft, verifies title and other data.

One of the services that use NMVTIS data is FAXVIN, which is a website that provides comprehensive vehicle history reports for consumers who want to check the background of a car before buying it.

We utilize NMVTIS along with other databases to perform the stolen car lookup. You also get other detailed information, including vehicle specifications. Odometer readings, accident history, and registration changes.

How to Check a Stolen Car by VIN for Free?

There are free ways to check if a car has been reported as stolen before. Let’s discuss two main methods: using the local DMV contacts and the NICB website.

Check the Reports from DMV

You can check the reports cataloged by the DMV and sourced from the local police stolen vehicle database. To do this, you will need to provide some details about the vehicle, such as the tag or VIN number. This will help the DMV to identify the car and see if it has been reported as stolen or recovered.

NICB Database

Another free and easy way to perform a stolen car check before buying a vehicle is to use the VINCheck tool provided by the NICB database.

The tool allows you to enter the VIN of any car and receive a stolen vehicle report along with any salvage records. Recently, the NICB updated the tool to make it more intuitive. You can simply take a photo of the VIN and upload it.

That said, there are restrictions on the number of times you can order a report: five times for each IP per 24 hours. The stolen vehicle check by NICB only provides limited information. You'll still need other details such as maintenance records and the accident history to make your purchase decision clear.

How to Get Accurate Vehicle Theft Check?

If you want a more accurate and comprehensive stolen vehicle search, you should consider ordering a FAXVIN report. Our service provides current information on any vehicle in North America. We source data from the top Approved NMVTIS Data Providers, which are authorized by the U.S.

Department of Justice to provide vehicle data to the public. During the stolen vehicle check, you can also see other records sourced from repair facilities, DMV offices, auction facilities, and more data providers across the country.

What Does the Report Contain?

The FAXVIN stolen vehicle report is a detailed document that attempts to provide a full account of the car and its particulars. Besides the basic data such as the make, model, year, and factory paint color, the FAXVIN report contains other vital categories that can reveal potential issues or risks associated with the vehicle. The categories to pay attention to include:

  • Junk/Salvage/Insurance Records: You can see if the vehicle has ever been declared as a total loss, junked, salvaged, or damaged by other natural disasters such as fire, flood, or hail.
  • Theft Records: This section shows if the vehicle has ever been reported as stolen, recovered, or repossessed.
  • Lien/Impound/Export Records: In this section, you can see if the unit has any outstanding liens or unpaid loans that may affect its transfer.
  • Title Checks: In this report section, you can see if the unit has a clear and valid title that matches its VIN and current status.

By reviewing these categories of data in FAXVIN’s stolen VIN check report, you get a better understanding of the condition and history, helping you to make a more sound decision.


The second-hand market for cars is booming, but that also means a higher risk of buying a stolen vehicle. You don't want to end up with a car that has a fake registration, a tampered VIN, or a problematic history.

That's why you need to be vigilant, careful, and keen on any discrepancies that could tell you that you're dealing with a stolen car. Check the documents, inspect the vehicle, verify the seller's identity, and perform a stolen car lookup before you make a deal. Buying a stolen car is not only illegal, but also a waste of money and time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is vehicle theft such a serious problem?
Vehicle theft is not just a minor inconvenience. It’s the number one property crime in the country – costing Americans approximately $8 billion each year. When someone steals your car, they are not only taking your property, but also your mobility, your safety, and your peace of mind. Vehicle theft can also lead to other crimes, such as identity theft, fraud, and violence.
Why would someone want to steal my automobile when I don't drive a sports car?
The cost of a car does not affect how likely it is to be stolen, since most cars are stolen for their parts. Older cars in particular can be easily taken apart for parts to supply a ready market, making the cars a main target of thieves. Parts can be sold quickly and easily for up to three times the resale value.
How likely is it that I'll get my vehicle back after it was stolen?
The average rate for car theft recovery is 44%, but varies greatly depending on states, according to Progressive Insurance's report.
How long does it typically take the police to find a stolen vehicle?
The chances of getting your car back vary by location, and the clues you have can help track down the vehicle. If you have things like security camera videos, the police can find your car faster.
Can I check if a vehicle is stolen by the license plate?
You have two options to find out who owns a car by its license plate number. One is to visit your nearest DMV or police station and ask them to check their system. The other is to use our website and look up the license plate number in the License Plate Lookup section. However, since license plates can be easily changed, it is better to check a car's history by its VIN instead.