The license plate search is one of the newest developments in vehicle history, an industry that really hasn’t changed very much over the years. Used to be, in order to run a check on a used car you were considering, you needed to get the VIN Number from the current owner.
You would then take that VIN and plug it into the box at AutoCheck or Carfax, and some information would come back telling you what kind of car, the model, the make, the year, and other relevant information.
Now, some of these companies have made it even easier to check a car’s history. You can now search by using the car’s license plate as well. This is ideal for those who are unable to get the VIN for one reason or another. Here’s a perfect scenario:
Let’s say you see a used car parked on the street, for sale by owner. It looks great, and it’s exactly what you are looking for. You could certainly call the owner, set up a time to meet, discuss the car, and ask him or her to give you the VIN so you can check the car out. Or, you could avoid all of that additional time, just copy the license plate number, and run your search that way. Which sounds easier? Why, the license plate search of course.
How does the license plate vehicle history search work?
It’s very simple actually. You find the a used car you are interested in. You copy down the license plate number and the state. You then take that information and enter it at the website of one of the leading vehicle history providers, such as Autocheck. Now, keep in mind that many people transfer plates from one car to the next. So more than one car might come up for your search. You simply have to pick the one you are looking at, and proceed.
From there the process is similar to how it works with a VIN. You will get some initial free information about the car you are considering. You can then choose to order one full report or multiple reports if you think you will be looking at more than one car. In most cases, it makes sense to opt for the multiple reports, unless you are absolutely sure that you are going to buy the one you are checking.
Single reports are usually around $25 or so. Then there are usually 25 reports for about $50 and unlimited reports for $99. The prices do change periodically, but there is always a single and multiple report option for you.
License Plate Check – Pros and Cons
There are advantages and disadvantages to the license plate search. Let’s start with the pros….
With the license plate search, you don’t need to wait to get the VIN from the current owner. Also, sometimes the VIN is missing or hard to read even if you can get the information. So all you need to do is be able to read the license plate, which you can do quickly and easily. In that regard it is much easier than a VIN search.
Although the license plate search is much more convenient, keep in mind that it won’t pull up any information about the car if there was a previous owner. It only follows the history of that license plate. The VIN search is much more thorough, because it traces the entire history of the car from its first registration to its last. So if there were multiple owners, you are much better off with a VIN search so you can see the complete history.
License Plate vs. VIN search – Bottom Line
If you can’t get the VIN, a license plate search is a great way to find out the history of a used car you are considering. But if you want a complete picture, you’re better off with the traditional VIN search.
Keep in mind however that if you order multiple reports, you can always use one of them to check the VIN on a car you’ve already checked by license plate. So it’s no loss.