A free VIN check to determine if a vehicle has been reported stolen or is a salvage vehicle can be conducted at the VinCheck website. VinCheck is run by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
The first step to running a VIN (vehicle identification number) check is to find the VIN on a particular car. Typically, the VIN is located on the driver's side of the car where the dashboard meets the windshield or on the frame of the car where the door latches on the driver's side. It also commonly appears on the vehicle title and insurance policy. However, those documents don't verify that the VIN listed belongs to the particular car being examined.
The VinCheck website doesn't provide information about a vehicle's maintenance history, number of previous owners or accident history. Many sites do provide such information for a small fee. As of September 18, 2014, Carfax provides a detailed history online for $39.00 per vehicle. AutoCheck provides the same type of history for $29.99 for a single vehicle, or you can check an unlimited number of VINs for 30 days for $44.99.
Carfax has also partnered with a number of car dealerships to provide its reports for all the used cars that the dealership offers for sale. These reports are provided to the potential buyer free of charge.