How to check if a car is stolen

If you are thinking of buying a car or have already done so, read this article on how to check if a car is stolen. That will save you headaches and problems with the law in California.   

In case you’ve been scammed by an unscrupulous salesperson, call the Los Angeles car accident lawyers Lluis Law. We can help you solve all the problems related to buying or selling a stolen vehicle.

You should know that if you acquire a stolen vehicle you can lose your money and even have legal problems. 

How to know and check if a car is stolen in California

When buying a second hand car we are often at risk of being scammed. Just imagine that after saving a few thousand dollars, you buy a vehicle and then discover that it is stolen.

There are other cases where the car is not stolen but is in trouble with the law, because it was used in a crime. In those type of cases is where the help of a good lawyer specialized in stolen cars is extremely useful and timely.

In California, there are a lot of cases of stolen cars that are sold to unsuspecting drivers. So it is important that you know how to protect yourself from this crime and avoid being a victim as well.  

There are ways to detect when a car is stolen or linked to serious crimes in or outside of California. For example, vehicular manslaughtermurdercarjackingrobberiesrapesdrug transport or kidnapping.

The first thing is to know who you are buying the car from. Buying cars online can be a real lottery, because you don’t know who the seller really is. Look for seller references and do not buy cars from unknown sellers. 

Keys to detect when a car is stolen

Behind the sale of stolen cars there are always criminals and criminal organizations that alter the vehicle’s records. Sometimes they may even own disreputable dealerships themselves.   

In order not to be cheated, you have to do a little research before buying the car. You can then do the following: 

  • Inspect the vehicle together with your trusted mechanic. It is necessary to know the mechanical condition of the car. Don’t just get carried away by new tires or how good a freshly washed and polished a car body looks.
  • Verify the vehicle identification number (VIN) yourself, through the National Insurance Crime Office (NICB). Then compare it to the code on the door, dash, or any other location.
  • If the vehicle for sale was reported or stolen and not recovered, it will appear in the NICB database. This is a free service and will help protect you from a fraudulent purchase.
  • It is important to also check the vehicle history with Carfax. This service offers valuable information about the property you are buying. Previous owners, possible accident damages, vehicle titles, etc.

A good mechanic will also help detect if the car was previously crashed and save damage that is not visible. 

There are even cars whose agency serials are perfectly in place without any alteration. But the vehicle is a hybrid, cut in half at the front and the rest added belongs to another car.

If you follow these simple steps you can hardly be fooled by a rogue salesperson. You will have all the car information you need to know at hand.

Where is the VIN of my car?

The VIN can be found on the lower left of the car dashboard. It can be easily read on the windshield right on the driver’s side or also on the driver’s side door.

Vehicle theft statistics in California

According to FBI statistics, around 748,841 vehicles were stolen in the United States in 2018. This meant a loss of around $ 6 billion for its owners and for insurance companies.

Among the most stolen cars are the Honda Civic and Honda Accord brands, two of the simplest models. Both represent about 1/7 of all cars stolen in the country, according to the NICB. It is followed by Ford and Chevrolet trucks, the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima. 

Vehicle theft from 2009 to 2018 in the USA

Year No. of stolen vehiclesPercentage change
2009795,652-17.0
2010739,565-7.0
2011716,508-3.1
2012723,1860.9
2013700,288-3.2
2014686,803-1.9
2015713,0633.8
2016767,2907.6
2017772,9430.7
2018748,841-3.1
Source: United States Department of Justice, FBI.

In California there are registered a little more than 14.7 million cars. FBI crime data reveals that California is the state with the highest incidence of vehicle theft crime. This is indicated in the following table. 

 States with the highest vehicle theft in 2018

RankStateNo. of stolen vehicles

1

California 
155,211

2

Texas 
69,817

3

Florida
41,165

4

Washington
27,677

5

Georgia 
24,760

6

Colorado 
21,673

7

Tennessee
20,439  

8

Ohio
19,909

9

Missouri
19,815

10

Illinois
19,593
Source: United States Department of Justice, FBI.

Stolen auto parts and spare parts

To avoid discovery, car thieves also often “breakdown” parts of stolen cars. In this way they can sell them in parts without taking great risk of being detected. 

There is a very extensive internet market for parts and spare parts for stolen vehicles. Buying these items can also spell trouble with the law.  

Our final advice is that before purchasing a used vehicle, check various options and request a second opinion. That’s what specialized lawyers and mechanics are for. 


If you were scammed with a used vehicle or suspect that your car was stolen, come with us. In the free consultation we offer we will tell you what to do. Don’t wait to be arrested for driving a stolen car to seek legal help.

If you follow these simple instructions on how to check if a car is stolen you will avoid issues with the law. The problem is when you have already purchased a stolen vehicle. So call now and you will get the professional help you need.