Buyer Beware Advisory on Purchasing Used Vehicles

The Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) is issuing a public advisory after used vehicles have been purchased recently and later determined stolen based on altered Vehicle Identification Number(s) (VIN).

Police investigators part of IMPACT have been working on files where citizens have been purchasing used vehicles, often at reasonably good prices, and when they register their newly purchased vehicles they learn the VIN is fake and the vehicle in fact has been stolen. The car is then repossessed and the buyer has lost their money.

We have seen these vehicle purchases being made on secondary markets online but also at used car dealerships where the dealership is unaware until they sell the vehicle and the new owner tries to register it, said Acting Inspector Eugene Lum, Office in Charge of IMPACT.

It is always recommended for vehicle buyers to meet their seller in person, in a safe location, bring a friend or family member, and go for a test drive, however, here are some further tips and steps to take before purchasing a used vehicle:

  • There are 2 VINs on each vehicle under/on the windshield and driver’s door jamb. Check to ensure the VINs match.
  • Enter the VIN on a free decoder tool: Free VIN Decoder: VIN Check & Lookup in Canada | CARFAX Canada and make sure it matches the vehicle you are purchasing.
  • Enter the VIN on the manufacturer’s website to make sure it exists and see if there are any recalls or other associated information to that VIN.
  • Get a vehicle history report and a pre-purchase inspection from providers such as a Carfax.
  • When looking at the vehicle’s report, carefully look for any inconsistencies such as if the car is registered in two difference provinces at the same time or if the vehicle is listed as gasoline, diesel or hybrid powered.
  • Check a VIN number on the Canadian Police Information Centre public website to determine if it has been reported stolen to police.
  • Be mindful of the asking price, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is.

If a buyer is looking at a used vehicle and there are inconsistencies and unanswered questions in it’s history, paperwork or seller’s story, then they should not buy it, adds Acting Inspector Lum.

A reminder to the public to do their due diligence and take precautions when purchasing a used vehicle to ensure their personal and financial safety and the legitimacy of their purchase.

More tips on buying a vehicle privately can also be found here: Buying Privately – VSA (

For media inquiries:
Sgt. Bob Harris