1. Be suspicious of any deal that seems “too good to be true”. Do your homework using a reliable resource to research the vehicle.
2. Use online resources to check the vehicle’s history by using the VIN. Information and links to these websites are provided on the TxDMV.gov website. You may also check NICB.org (National Insurance Crime Bureau) to ensure the vehicle has not been stolen, flooded, or deemed unrepairable. (https://www.nicb.org/how-we-help/vincheck) The information you find may affect the value of the vehicle, and may even tell you whether it has been found unsafe for use on roadways. Remember that uninsured vehicles or vehicles stolen in other countries will not appear in these databases so you still need to use caution.
3. Verify the seller’s credibility. Ask the seller for references about the past financing and insurance on the vehicle. Verify the information with the bank, finance company, or agent. Be cautious about a seller with no fixed address, place of employment or phone number. Request to see the seller’s driver’s license or a legal identification card.
4. When buying from a private individual, ask to see the title to match the seller’s identity (name and address) with the information on the title.
5. Question the seller about a registration that was recently issued on an older vehicle. Be cautious of new license plates on an old vehicle, or new plate bolts on an older plate.
6. The VIN plate on the automobile’s dash should be present, secure, and have no loose rivets. The VIN plate should have original stainless steel “rosette” rivets with a hole in the middle. The VIN on the dash must match the VIN on the registration, title, and federal safety inspection sticker on the driver’s door. If the VIN plate is scratched, bent or missing rivets, tampering may have occurred.
7. Make sure the federal safety sticker is securely in place and none of the numbers appear to be tampered with. This is located on the driver's door or door jamb.
8. Beware of a loose dashboard or an excessively loose ignition switch, either of which may indicate tampering. Check the switch for chisel or pull marks.
9. Be wary of a fresh paint job on a newer vehicle. This may indicate an attempt to obscure the vehicle’s history.
10. Check the inspection documentation and registration sticker to be sure they are current and issued in the same state.
11. If the seller provides you with only remade keys for a newer model vehicle rather than originals, be suspicious.
12. Obtain a signed title and completed Application for Texas Title (Form 130-U) from the seller.