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Is It Safe to Give Out the VIN Number When Selling a Car?

As an auto damage appraiser, I record the VIN number of every car I look at. I have often wondered if this information could be misused and if I should shred my documents to protect people. So, I looked into the matter, and these are my findings.

In most cases, it is safe to give out the VIN number when selling a car. However, this practice can either be beneficial or detrimental, depending on how you are selling your car. Generally, it is preferable to give out the VIN only to a potential buyer or professional dealer. 

But what are the benefits and dangers of giving out your VIN? Let’s have a look at all the essential details that can help you make a wise choice.

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Is It Truly Safe to Give out My VIN?

Hacker in a mask with a laptop inside a car

Is it finally time to upgrade the vehicle that has been getting you to work for the past five years? Are you planning on putting your car on the market and buying a new greased lightning with the earnings? Selling a car is not the most challenging of processes, but it is good practice to brush up on the basics.

Unlike your credit card number or address, the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of your will never be that much of a secret. Indeed, in most vehicles, it is visible through the windshield and accessible by any passerby. But is it safe to willingly give it out to an audience while trying to sell your car? 

Undoubtedly there are advantages of this practice that can help you close a deal faster and increase the transaction’s transparency. However, there are some rare but significant risks that might put you off advertising your VIN across the internet. 

Let’s have a look at what makes a difference in the process.

How Are You Selling Your Car?

Showing your car’s VIN upon meeting a potential buyer is very different from openly publishing it on sales and services websites such as Craigslist. Indeed, in the first case, it is almost necessary to share your VIN with a potential client or dealership upon showing your car. 

However, if you have placed your ad on multiple websites and online forums, you might want to think twice about allowing millions of people to find the ID of your car quickly. In this case, you might even face risks such as VIN cloning. If you have opted to sell your car online to reach out to a broader audience, it is preferable to share the VIN privately, only to potential buyers who get in touch directly after viewing the offer.

Benefits of Passing on Your VIN

So, you have found a potential buyer that is interested in giving a second home to your car, but now they are asking you for the VIN.

Is It a Good Idea to Share It?

Yes. In any case, most buyers will need the VIN to check the history, manufacturer, model, and value of your car before purchase. If you aren’t willing to share it with the buyer, you might be losing out on a sale. 

There are some of the benefits you can enjoy from this practice, such as:

  • Obtain a fair price for your vehicle. If a potential buyer has checked the specifics of your car, he is now fully caught up with how much the car is worth and what is a ridiculous price to pay. As a seller, you can set a fair price for the vehicle, which won’t suffer significant fluctuations. The last thing any owner wishes is to sell off a car for a ridiculously low price,
  • Transparency. A seller who is not so willing to give out the VIN can quickly miss out on an outstanding deal. Customers and potential buyers might not be too keen about blindly signing up for a car of unknown value.
  • Find the right buyer. Not all cars are the same, but also, not all buyers are the same. Basing a relationship on transparency and honesty will help you attract genuine buyers that won’t try to trick or con you.

What Can Someone Do With My Vin Number?

Hacker using laptop with abstract digital car hologram on dark background

Of course, you know that the VIN is visible to any passerby if they have a peek through your windshield. So why should you be so careful when it comes down to sharing your car’s identification code? 

Well, there are potential risks associated with the widespread use of such a personal number. In the next sections, we’ll have a look at what you should keep in mind while crafting the perfect ad for your car.

VIN Cloning and How to Avoid It

VIN cloning is one of the biggest dangers related to giving away your VIN. VIN cloning is the practice of using your car’s legally registered number for stolen or salvaged vehicles. Such vehicles are then back on the market with the cloned VIN from a registered vehicle.

In the United States, there are over 700,000 car identity thefts per year, which lead to just under $30 million in losses for owners, customers, and buyers. Indeed, if the car you bought is associated with a stolen VIN, authorities can confiscate it and hold you or your dealer responsible for standing repayments.

To avoid getting your VIN cloned, make sure to pass it directly onto a potential buyer and not share it through an online ad or websites. Moreover, it is good practice to meet with the buyer in person so he can ensure that the VIN is effectively matching. 

A buyer might also ask to inspect the model, manufacturer, and specifics of your car alongside running a history check of the vehicle. While you might find this practice unnecessary at first, it is essential to protect a buyer from scams.

Somebody Could File a False Tax Return 

The possibility that somebody could find your VIN, steal it, and submit a false tax return is slim, but when it comes down to safety, you should leave no stone unturned. 

While there isn’t a large number of reported cases of this eventuality, if somebody does file a false tax return with your car VIN, you could face some serious trouble. The biggest issue you could face is that you will struggle to get your tax return documents approved if somebody else has already submitted the VIN you are using. This situation happens because tax returns must present unique details.

Your Identity Could Be at Risk From Sharing a VIN

You might be wondering if it is that dangerous for somebody to know your car’s identification number. Intrinsically, it is not. However, each VIN links to the details of the car’s owner. Anybody that would like to find out about your identity, address, nationality, age, etc. could get hold of such personal information by tracing back from your car’s VIN.

You could easily avoid such identity theft by sharing the VIN only with a potential buyer as he decides to view your car. Instead, you should avoid posting it or publishing it on online forums, sales websites, and lists. Identity and VIN thieves tend to scan such online resources when looking for potentially useful details. 


You might have been selling your cars for many years now, or you might be new to the game. Of course, no seller wants to see its vehicle departing without making a little profit on it. Sharing your VIN is recommendable only if you are passing it on directly to a potential buyer, while it might not be as safe to publish it on the internet. 

The chances that car and ID thieves will get hold of it and use it for obscure purposes are slim, but you should not overlook any possibility. Use your VIN wisely to win over a potential client, but ensure such practice does not compromise your privacy.

I hope this article has been helpful. For more, don’t miss How Much Does a Used Car Dealer Make per Car? | Average Markup.