How To check if an ATV is stolen
Stolen ATVs are occasionally offered for sale online or in local classifieds but you can protect yourself and check a few things to avoid buying a stolen ATV. Here are some common sense tips, don't become a victim too.
Things you can do
Ask the seller for the ATV VIN and run an ATV VIN check in advance. You want to make sure that the ATV's VIN is legitimate and valid in advance. One common mistake someone might make if they are fabricating an ATV VIN is getting the year value wrong. That happens because ATV VIN numbers are unique in that the digits for year repeat every 20 years and it's actually the 7th digit which validates the 10th digit(year). example: An ATV VIN might check out but suggest the ATV is a year old when it's a much older model.
With a VALID VIN in hand visit a site like NICB.org to begin the process of finding out if an ATV is stolen. You can also inquire about the title at your local DMV if the seller is able to produce one. Unfortunately not all ATVs will have a title because in some states an ATV title is not required.
Visit your local department of motor vehicles to know the laws within your State or Province. If a title is mandatory in your area and the buyer says they reside in your area politely ask for an ATV title to be included in the deal, you're going to need to register it after the sale anyway.
Trust Your Instincts - Use Common Sense
If an ATV offer or deal feels too good to be true, it probably is. Meeting prospective sellers in person will help you better understand the type of person you are dealing with. A major red flag is the seller insisting on bringing the ATV to your location or demanding that the meeting occur somewhere other than their home or place of business.
Someone who is selling a stolen ATV will generally not want you to know where they live. They will have an answer ready for any question you might have so ask a few unexpected questions as well. Example: The buyer says he is selling the ATV because he needs money or doesn't have time to ride it anymore. Casually ask why they need the money or why they don't have time.
These are questions the seller might not have prepared an answer for and so you might notice it takes them a little longer to answer the question or the answer doesn't make sense. If a story isn't true it requires more effort to create and unexpected questions reveal this.
Walk Away At Any Time
When you suspect an ATV might be stolen and you are with the seller don't accuse them of anything, for your own safety let them know you aren't interested and leave. Let the police investigate a possible stolen ATV, you put yourself at risk if you confront someone yourself.
Once you have a better understanding of the seller's character there are additional steps you can take to find out if the ATV is stolen or not. Remember, it's OK to walk away at any time.
Complete a Bill of Sale
A bill of sale is a contract between you, the buyer, and the seller that describes the transaction. Include all important details such as the agreed upon price, the vehicle's description, the ATV VIN, a description of the ATV including condition and as much information about both the buyer and the seller as you can.
Ask for a valid driver's license number to include along with the home address and contact information of both parties. A bill of sale should also be signed by both parties and have a current date on the document.
If the seller does not have a valid title, note that on the bill of sale. Again if you are in a location in which a valid title is mandatory consider not having it a deal breaker. Better safe than sorry because there is a good chance your newly purchased but not legally registered would be confiscated should police become involved. The more pertinent information you can include on the bill of sale the better off both parties are.
Complete the bill of sale BEFORE handing over any cash. If it looks good pay for the ATV and receive the bill of sale at the same time. If you pay and accept a promise to be sent one in the mail it may never come. Don't be afraid to offend the seller by being firm, a legitimate seller will not mind taking the time to do it right.
Register the used ATV at your local DMV
Consider this step mandatory, there is very little to gain by avoiding the process of registering your ATV with your local department of motor vehicles. The benefits of doing so far outweigh the perceived negatives such as paying a transfer tax. Should your ATV become stolen it will be easier for law enforcement to return it to you if they find it.
If you are questioned about your ATV you can be in no better position than to have an official title with your name on it. Peace of mind, it's worth doing a little bit of paperwork for! You can also request an ATV history report while doing your ATV VIN search if your DMV offers that service.
Ask around in the ATV community
Many ATV riders form close knit communities online that often discuss their hobbies in various forums. You can be sure that if someone has just had their ATV stolen they are likely to ask for help in recovering it, somewhere. Perform a few searches for the make and model of your ATV along with the word stolen to see if you can find any recent postings about an ATV theft.
There are websites that offer a paid service in ATV recovery but I would not recommend spending money on such services because there are no guarantees. There might even be a reward offered for the ATV!
Bring a friend and stay safe
When meeting with an ATV seller bring a friend or relative with you for security purposes. A second set of eyes is a good idea. Use all of the tools available to you in assessing the ATV, and the seller, and do not be afraid to tell the seller it's not what you are looking for. If you are unsure about something ask questions and if you don't trust the answers, walk away. Saying no is sometimes the best deal you can make.