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Classic VIN search - How to check classic and antique car history

Just a decade ago, classic or antique cars were those manufactured before 1981 when VIN numbers became standard 17-character codes. How even some models from 90-ies are marketed as classics. VIN search for classics also permits finding out the vehicle's specs and history. With classics manufactured in 1981 and later VIN check process is the same as for all normal vehicles.

History search for older cassic or antique cars is not so simple as with modern cars for one reason: the VINs issued beore 1981 are not standardized so some databases either dont have information about these VINs or are simply unable to process check requests because the length of the VIN is less than 17 characters.

Can I find a classic history in the government database?

It it possible to find records about a classic VIN from services providing NMVTIS records. However, please note the following:

  • You will most likey get records about major incidents or run pass / fail checks about a list of possible major issues with the vehicle, like accidents, thefts, salvage title, odometer rollback, junk title / scrap, mismantled title, flood damage etc. but no service records as the latter can only be found with CARFAX / Autocheck and these services did not work with classic cars. However, new vehicle types have been added to CARFAX and Autocheck so that in the past years previously unavailable motorcycle, Rv and trailer histories also became available. It makes sense to try and check in any case.

  • As to mileage, most classics will have and Excempt record for the last years which means they are no longer obliged to report on mileage.

  • There are numerous providers of NMVTIS histories (the data aggregated from all local DMV databases) and it makes sense to try and check on multiple websites for one simple reason: some may reject a short VIN as invalid from the very start of your search not because the federal database contains no records or the VIN is not registered at all but simply because the website's search tool is not designed to accept a short VIN, so your search will be terminated even before it starts and the request to the database is made, and you will see an error message about a wrong VIN. Similar issues have been observed with trailer checks on some sites, for instance, when the federal database has the trailer VIN but the manufacturer is not yet added to that specific VIN check webiste so that it decode the VIN correcly. As a result, the search is a failure even with the VIN is present in the database. Older classic or antique cars are a minute share of all VIN searches so some sites just omit them as invaid for the sake of simpler algorytms and faster response. Another possible case is a custom VIN given to a reassambled or a kit car. Such VINs, even being a 17-digit code, may be unrecognized by some sites because they cannot decode the manufacturer.

Are there other sources for classic car checks?

  • Classic cars are rare and many are featured at multiple wedsites with numerous photos and details, which be easily found by the VIN on the web.
  • It makes sense to check interest clubs and specialized forums or communities where collectors and enthusiasts hang out. Extra information may be available to registered users.
  • The same vehicle may be disscussed at multiple resources.
  • Check specialized databases like classiccardatabase.com. Even if the search by VIN is not available you can easliy find the vehicle by year, make and model as the choice is very limited.

Will standard classic VIN history search provide specification decoding details?

It will for classics newer than 1981. It won't for older models, you should use secialized decoderes or check year-and-model spec lists available at classic websites.

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