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A vehicle’s VIN, or vehicle identification number, contains a wealth of information in and of itself and can be used to uncover important data points about a particular vehicle. 

Using a VIN, you are able to run a number of different VIN reports to unlock this information. 

This page will go over the main types of VIN reports and how to get your hands on one. 

First, if you’re new to VINs in general, learn more about what a VIN number can tell you.

Types of VIN Reports

There are a handful of different types of VIN reports. 

We can break them down into two main categories:

  • How much the report will cost. 
  • The type of data the reports contains. 

The main types of VIN reports include:

  • VIN lookups or VIN decoders.
  • Vehicle History Reports.
  • VIN Checks. 

We’ll go into more detail about each one below.

What is a VIN Lookup?

A VIN lookup describes a VIN report you can run for free that provides you with vehicle specs and other data about a particular vehicle. 

The VIN itself contains a lot of information that is coded in a certain way. If you know how to read a VIN number, you can learn about the exact details of a specific car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle. 

But, you can also make it easy on yourself and simply enter your VIN into a free VIN decoder.

A VIN decoder, or VIN lookup, will tell you:

  • The year, make, model, and series of your vehicle. 
  • The engine and transmission specs.
  • Where the vehicle was manufactured.
  • Safety features.
  • Body and trim features. 
  • The style and body class.
  • Additional features such as assistive technology. 

A VIN lookup can also tell you:

  • Estimated car insurance costs.
  • Estimated gas costs.
  • Overall cost of ownership.
  • Market value of the vehicle. 

These types of reports can be obtained for free.

A VIN lookup is a good choice in the following situations:

  • When you are interested in buying a used vehicle and want to do some preliminary research. 
  • When you are looking for replacement parts for your vehicle. 
  • If you are interested in learning more about the vehicle you own. 
  • If you are getting ready to sell your car.

What is a Vehicle History Report?

A Vehicle History Report takes the VIN report to the next level. 

Vehicle history reports, or VHRs, combine data from multiple sources such as:

  • Insurance companies. 
  • Car manufacturers.
  • State DMVs.
  • Federal agencies. 

All of this data is used to uncover important information about a used vehicle, including:

  • How many owners it has had.
  • Where it has been registered and titled. 
  • Lienholder information. 
  • Major accident information. 
  • Total loss, salvage, and flood damaged vehicles.
  • Title brands.
  • Odometer discrepancies. 

When you run a vehicle history report, you’ll be looking for major red flags that would make you want to reconsider the purchase. 

You should run a vehicle history report when you are ready to make a purchase decision about a used vehicle. 

Vehicle history reports will typically cost money. Depending on the provider, a vehicle history report will cost anywhere from $5 to $20 per report. 


There are some free vehicle history report options, but you’ll often need to provide at least your email address or sign up for an account.

You can learn more about this type of report in our guide to Vehicle History Reports

What is a VIN Check?

Finally, a VIN Check can be used to check if a car has been reported as stolen by using just the VIN. 

This information is often included on the paid vehicle history report, but can also be checked for free.

A VIN Check will instantly tell you whether the vehicle you are interested in has been:

  • Reported as stolen. 
  • Recovered after being stolen. 

You can run a free VIN check for stolen vehicles through the NICB at the following link: https://www.nicb.org/vincheck 

This report will also tell you whether the vehicle has even been reported as salvaged or a total loss.