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While buying a new car usually gives you better peace of mind in terms of reliability, a second-hand car will be far cheaper than buying it new. Moreover, you won’t have to worry as much about depreciation with a used car. However, the condition of the used car is key to ensuring it’s a good purchase. So it’s best to get a free VIN check in Canada before buying. 

It can be hard to tell the true condition of a used car, especially if you don’t know what issues to look for. This is where checking the car’s VIN becomes extremely important. Read this to find out how you can get a free VIN check in Canada.

What Is A VIN?

The VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is a set of unique identifier codes that are given to a vehicle when it’s manufactured. It may be stamped, labelled, or engraved on several parts of a car. You can use the vehicle identification number to review the car’s history

This may include information about the car’s accident, theft, insurance damage, unique features and manufacturing details.

What Does A VIN Look Like?

Today, all vehicles are identified by a 17-digit VIN. You can use this decoding formula to check any VIN of your car:

  • First 3 Digits or Letters – These numbers are the world manufacturer code or identifier. They show you which country and automaker produced the vehicle. The coding will be the same formula for motorcycles, mopeds, and trailers.  
  • Positions 4 to 9 – The next 6 characters are the vehicle descriptor sector (VDS) and they describe a vehicle’s platform, body style, engine type, and model. In North America, the 9th position proves that a VIN is real. Every manufacturer has its own system for identifying the VDS, since there are thousands in existence.      
  • Positions 10 to 17 – Characters 10 through 17 are the vehicle’s identification sector, which is essentially its serial number. The 10th letter or number identifies the vehicle’s model year, along with some other basic information. In North America, the 11th position tells you which manufacturing plant built the vehicle.   

What Does It Mean If My VIN Code Isn’t 17 Digits Long? 

Today, all vehicles are identified by a 17-digit VIN. If yours is less than 17 digits, it may mean the vehicle was made prior to 1981. Cars manufactured prior to 1981 had no standard VIN. Some cars had VINs that were 5 digits long and others were 13 digits long.

So, if you plan to buy a vehicle that was manufactured before 1981, keep in mind that today’s decoding formula won’t work and that details on it may be limited. 

Why Is It Important To Check A VIN?

There are several reasons to get a free VIN check in Canada. The most important are:

To Identify Stolen Vehicles

Since the VIN is a unique identifier, checking it can also help you avoid buying a stolen car. Before you buy a car, look for signs of tampering, like attempts to alter or hide the VIN and mismatched rivets or screws instead of rivets. Make sure the VIN matches the original registration and is the same on every part of the vehicle where it’s been placed.       

To Find Car Parts

If your vehicle needs repairs or modifications and you know a reliable parts dealer, your VIN will be the best way for them to track down the right pieces. They can then use your VIN information to confirm whether a part matches the make and model of your vehicle.  

To Insure The Car

The VIN tells the history of a vehicle, so it’s necessary to have it when applying for car insurance too. If the vehicle has any unpaid liens, safety recalls, or accidents in its past, the car may not be insurable. 

To Verify The Condition Of The Car

Checking your VIN is also important because it gives you the used car’s history. You’ll be able to tell if the car has been in any major accidents or if it’s been rebuilt. The VIN may even show you the vehicle’s odometer readings and if it’s been written off by another insurer, then rebuilt for sale.    

To Check For Liens

You can also use the VIN to check for any liens on the car. If you purchase a car with an existing lien, you’ll become responsible for the debt. As such, before you buy a used car, be sure to have any liens removed. 

Where Can You Check A VIN For Free In Canada?

Although a paid VIN check will likely give you the most detailed results, there are plenty of different online platforms where you can get a free VIN check in Canada, such as:

Transport Canada

Transport Canada is a federal institution that’s responsible for the transportation policies and programs in our country. They promote safe, efficient, and environmentally-friendly transportation, and have a free online search tool that allows users to find out whether vehicles, child car seats, or tires have been recalled due to manufacturer defects.   

VIN Verify

VIN Verify is a database offered by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) that identifies vehicles with branded title statuses like non-repairable, salvaged, fire or flood. Their website doesn’t offer vehicle history reports but their free VIN check tool can protect you from buying title-washed cars or cars with serious issues that appear fine on paper.    

National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is based in the United States and offers a free VIN check tool that you can use to determine whether a vehicle has been reported as salvaged by NICB member insurance companies or stolen but not yet recovered. On their website, you can conduct five searches within 24 hours using a single IP address.  


VehicleHistory is an accurate directory filled with government reports, owner reviews, and other data from trusted vehicle associations. Their free VIN check reports include vehicle histories and specifications, recalls and complaints from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, plus full historical auctions, incidents and sales listings.   

With Vehicle History, you’ll receive the car’s: 

  • Accident history
  • Sale’s history
  • NHTSA recalls and complaints
  • Unique vehicle features


iSeeCars is another free VIN check tool that can give you peace of mind when buying used cars. After you enter a VIN on their website, you’ll get a detailed report containing far more information than many other databases. You’ll get information regarding the car’s:

  • Vehicle’s theft record
  • Recall and selling history
  • Vehicle title/lien information
  • Selling history
  • Vehicle conditions as well as the pros and cons of car
  • Multi-year depreciation analysis
  • Market value statistics.

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Other Platforms You Can Check Your VIN

If you’re looking for other platforms that may give you more information regarding your vehicle’s history, you may want to consider paid platforms.


If you’re really looking for reliability, CARFAX Canada is one of the most accurate and up-to-date VIN check providers in the country. It draws information from over 100,000 data sources. It even offers a convenient mobile app, as well as a VIN decoder that tells you more key details about a vehicle and what the 17 digits of your VIN mean.   

With Carfax Canada, you can get your vehicle history report for $46.95. If you add a lien check, it bumps up to $64.95. If you’d like to check the history of more than one car, you can pay $104.94 for three vehicle history reports and one lien check.    

What’s Included In the Report? 

With Carfax, you’ll get information about the car’s:

  • Accident and theft history 
  • Structural damage 
  • Flood and hail damage
  • Odometer readings and rollbacks
  • Service records and estimates for repair costs
  • Open safety recalls
  • U.S/Canada imports and history

VinAudit Canada

VinAudit Canada has partnered with a number of nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and industry sources to provide VIN checks for users from coast to coast for a low cost. You can get 1 vehicle history report for $14.95, 5 for $34.95 and 10 for $44.95.

Their detailed vehicle reports includes:

  • Vehicle brand verifications
  • US history records
  • Odometer checks
  • Recalls and buybacks
  • Theft confirmations
  • Registration histories.

If you’re buying a car in the US, you can check the vehicle’s history using They use data from over 268 million registered vehicles across the US to provide free VIN checks that take less than a minute. With their web database, you can browse 10-page vehicle history reports or have them sent to your email. Their reports feature details like market value, insurance information, safety ratings, and much more. 

How To Find A VIN For A Free VIN Check In Canada

Depending on your vehicle’s make, model year, and manufacturing point, you may be able to find your VIN tag in several locations, including:

  • The Dashboard – The most common place to see a VIN is a stamp or label on the dashboard. Visible through the windshield on the driver’s side of the vehicle. 
  • The Driver’s Side Door Jamb – The other most common spot for the VIN will be a label on the driver’s side door jamb, down where the door latches to the frame.  
  • Your Registration Or Title Papers – If you can’t find your VIN on the vehicle itself. It will normally appear somewhere on your registration or title documents.
  • Your Insurance Documents – You may also see your VIN listed on your car insurance policy. Just under your personal information and the insurer’s name.         
  • The Engine Block – On some vehicles, the VIN is stamped on the engine block, near your windshield washer container. It may appear on your transmission too.   
  • The Manufacturer’s Website – Some manufacturers also have online platforms where you can look up the VIN by entering your vehicle’s make, model, and year

Is There A Difference Between A VIN Check And A Vehicle History Report?

A VIN check and vehicle history report are similar because they can both tell you about a vehicle’s past. However, they differ in the specific information they provide: 

VIN Check

This simple search tool gives you information about a vehicle’s make, model, year, and basic features. It can also tell you if a vehicle has been reported stolen, salvaged, or damaged by certain events. These details are often used by potential buyers to verify the seller’s claims about a vehicle’s history. 

Vehicle History Report

This document offers a more comprehensive overview of a vehicle’s history. It may include elements such as previous owners, accident history, maintenance records, and title information. It can also help potential buyers make better decisions concerning a vehicle’s overall condition and value.    

Thinking About Buying A Used Car In Canada?

A car is an expense, there’s no other way to put it. This is why so many Canadians choose to purchase more affordable used vehicles. But, a used car can come with its own set of issues. This is why checking its VIN is always a great step to take. It is an extra step to take, but you’ll always be happy to have peace of mind   

Free VIN Checks In Canada FAQs

What if my VIN doesn’t decode?

If your VIN doesn’t decode, you can use free online tools like this CARFAX decoder

What if my VIN doesn’t match the ownership permit?

When a VIN doesn’t match the ownership permit you should contact the vehicle licensing and registration bureau in your area. You should also report the discrepancy to the police and your insurance provider. When your car’s VIN on the dashboard doesn’t match the one on your insurance policy (aka “pink slip”), you can also use the IBC’s VIN Verify Service to see if it was reported as salvaged, flood/fire damaged, or non-repairable.       

Why should I check a car’s VIN?

Essentially, a VIN is your car’s fingerprint, meaning no two are the same. So, if you want to buy a used vehicle, checking the VIN and getting a history report are precautions you should take to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon or stolen car. It can also tell you if there are other problems, such as liens or insurance claims against the vehicle.
Bryan Daly avatar on Loans Canada
Bryan Daly

Bryan is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University. He has been writing for Loans Canada for five years, covering all things related to personal finance, and aims to pursue the craft of professional writing for many years to come. In his spare time, he maintains a passion for editing, writing screenplays, staying fit, and travelling the world in search of the coolest sights our planet has to offer.

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