Last Updated on January 21, 2024 by Kristin

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Drivers renting a car normally assume that the vehicle is safe to drive and has the specifications the rental agent has outlined. However, it never hurts to have more information about the car’s history before you get behind the wheel. One easy way is to check your rental car’s VIN.

Every car has a unique vehicle identification number (VIN), which becomes a record for keeping track of the car’s past history. Not only is it essential to check a car’s VIN before buying a used car, but it can also be wise to check a rental car’s VIN. This is because a VIN can give clues about the vehicle’s history and any recalls that may be outstanding.

Here’s how to find and check your rental car’s VIN.

Why You Should Check a Rental Car’s VIN

A VIN Confirms The Rental Car’s Specifications

One reason to check a rental car’s VIN is to be sure that the car model has the specifications you think it does. As a cautionary tale by The Points Guy’s Melanie Lieberman illustrates, checking a VIN can uncover a big lie. Lieberman thought she was renting a Jeep Compass with four-wheel drive, but the VIN revealed that the car actually had front-wheel drive. She also discovered that the windshield wipers had been recalled. As Lieberman points out, rental offices rarely guarantee a specific model, so checking the VIN can help confirm whether the car has the features you think it does.

A VIN Shows the Car’s History and Any Recalls

In the unlikely event that the rental car suffers a mechanical issue while in your possession, you can use the VIN information to show the rental car company and insurance company whether the car ever had a history of damages or was subject to a recall. While rental car companies are not allowed to rent vehicles with an outstanding recall, it never hurts to check.

Where to Find a Car’s VIN

A car’s VIN can be found in several different areas of the vehicle, depending on the type of car.

  1. Stamped on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle near the windshield.
  2. On a plate or sticker on the driver’s side door jamb.
  3. Stamped on the engine’s firewall.
  4. Printed on the car’s title and registration.
  5. Printed on your rental agreement.

How to Check the Car’s History Using its VIN

Once you have the rental car’s VIN, you can look it up easily online using the website of your choice. AutoCheck, VehicleHistory and VinCheck are all free options. While some other sites charge for a more comprehensive report, if you’re just renting a vehicle, the free report is typically fine.