How do you check if the used car you want to buy is not stolen?

Although it is a rather rare practice, there is a probability of being deceived with a stolen car, especially if we are talking about expensive cars, which are more prone and desirable to criminal groups due to the high sales value. Fortunately for customers, they can easily find out if the car is stolen via a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) decoder.

Below we will present a series of tips and hints that could reveal the legal status of the car you are interested in.

  1. Check the car’s history online using the chassis series. The easiest way to find out important data about a car is to analyze the chassis series in an online VIN decoder, such as the one offered by carVertical . Here you will get information about the damage suffered (and estimated repair prices), officially registered mileage, technical data (list of optional equipment, engine, etc.), but also the legal status of the car, especially its existence in the database of stolen vehicles.
    Photo source: CarVertical

(Here is an excerpt from a verification report that found a car in the UK stolen).

  1. Check all places where the body series is displayed. A practice of criminals dealing with the sale of stolen vehicles is to modify the chassis series of the car so that it is identical to one that belongs to a car without problems. We are practically talking about replacing the « history » of a stolen car in order to hide a crime. The chassis series is relatively easy to change in some places, but there are elements in which it is stamped.

Thus, if you notice any discrepancies in numbers and letters between two or more body elements (they do not match or have erasures), try to find out as many details as possible from the seller. Not every trace of wear can be considered an attempt to counterfeit the chassis series, but you need to find out what the cause or explanation of the seller is about it.

The most common places where you will find the chassis series are:

in the car documents (registration certificate, RCA policy, etc.);
at the edge of the driver's door;
under the carpet, on the driver's or passenger's side;
under the trunk carpet;
in the vicinity of the fairing behind the wheel on the right front;
on the fireproof wall;
on one of the side members;
on the engine block;
near the radiator bracket.
  1. Inspect for signs of burglary or forced entry. In the case of less elaborate thefts, the thief may have needed to break a window, force a yala, or try to start the car by unusual methods.

Carefully check the markings on the base of the car’s glazed surfaces and find out details about any discrepancies in age or manufacturer. On the one hand, it is common for the windshield to be replaced due to wear and tear, but a side window with a different date of manufacture than the rest of the car may also be evidence of theft or vandalism.

Also, deep scratches, a layer of uneven paint or putty near the yales, a recently replaced contact without the documentation of a representative or a plausible reason or the malfunction of one of the two keys are signs of a possible theft.

  1. Be wary of « irrefutable » offers. In the world of used cars, any « bargain » can quickly become a financial problem and if we talk about a stolen car, it will be confiscated by the authorities at the time of presentation to RAR

If you are looking to purchase a particular model, you have noticed a « market price » and you find a suspicious ad cheap (30% -40% cheaper than normal for the condition, year of manufacture, equipment or mileage of the car), the possibility that this to have problems is a very high one.

Do not fall into the trap of traders who want to get rid of the car for sale as soon as possible, especially if it is listed at an unlikely price. This type of seller seeks a quick and easy profit, using all the means at his disposal, from mileage fraud to the sale of a stolen vehicle.

  1. Be more careful with « luxury » cars. Any used car listed for sale can hide some defects or fraud, the most common being mileage changes.

However, the possibility of a popular and relatively cheap car being stolen is low, as the risks to which criminals would be exposed are too high in relation to the potential profit. In the case of expensive models (from € 40,000 and up), the probability of theft increases, but not exponentially.

Usually, a person who wants to buy a more expensive car will use the services of an authorized dealer or a car dealership – both being credible legal entities with civil liability.

In the case of private sellers (especially those dealing with car trade), the transaction must be approached with a greater dose of caution, with a somewhat increased risk not only for the possibility of theft, but especially mileage fraud or hiding incidents.

In conclusion, although in Romania the cases of stolen cars are rare, it is always advisable to analyze in as much detail as possible the vehicle you want to buy. A critical perspective at the time of purchase is a good tool to get a price reduction but also to avoid cars with problems, be they mechanical, aesthetic or legal.

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