Buying a car checklist

Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate




There are a number of important considerations to make when creating your checklist to buy a car.

A well thought out checklist can help you to hit the ground running, and reduce the risk of paying over the odds for your next used car.

Buy a car that suits your lifestyle

You may picture yourself zipping along in a fancy convertible, but if you have a growing family it's probably not practical. Establishing your lifestyle limitations helps you weed out the non-starters.

Set a budget

Once you've built a top ten vehicle list, it's time for some tough love. Can you actually afford them? Remember to include insurance, registration, regular maintenance and running costs when making this decision.

Rock-bottom prices = scam alert

Beware rock-bottom prices – particularly if you're making an online car purchase. Common sob stories include 'I've been laid off', 'The previous owner died', and 'I need to sell quickly as I'm unwell.' Test these tall tales by asking about payment methods. If they only offer wire transfer, run.

Call in the experts

Where possible, call in the professionals to inspect the used car you have your eye on. It may have previously been written off and repaired, which could make it a less attractive asset.

Purchasing a CarHistory Report can quickly and comprehensively establish a vehicle's history including theft, storm damage, flood damage, write offs and doctored odometers.

View a sample report >