Buying a second hand car

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




When you're next in the market for buying a second hand car, it's important that you first create a detailed checklist to protect yourself against budget busters, common scams, deception and full-on fraud.

Whether you're keen to make your big-ticket car purchase via a private seller or licensed dealership, you must remain vigilant for encumbered or stolen vehicles. The following CarHistory tips should steer you in the right direction and protect your finances.

Do your research

If you know the model/s that suit your specific needs, it's time to learn their market value. Online price guides will help to ensure you don't pay above the odds.

Create a budget (then stick to it)

Before you go anywhere near a dealership or private seller, set yourself a realistic budget. Without a budget, you risk overextending yourself. Remember to include insurance, regular maintenance, registration and running costs in your sums.

Patience is a virtue

Take the time to assess the deal thoroughly. Remember the old adage: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Very low priced vehicles should set off alarm bells.

Don't show them the money

Unless you're purchasing online and have conducted in-depth CarHistory reports, never, ever transfer your hard-earned cash to a seller before giving the car the once over in person.

Stay vigilant for write offs

To the untrained eye, it may be hard to spot a vehicle that's been written off and repaired. And there's no guarantee a car seller will let you in on their little secret.

CarHistory reports establish whether used cars have a secret history of write offs, theft, storm damage, flood damage or an inaccurate odometer.

View a sample report >