When you are considering buying a home, don’t you want to know if it has a damaged foundation, poorly repaired problems, or is much older than the owner claimed? A vehicle history report serves a similar purpose for Buying used cars buying – Revealing past problems – and it’s a must have for smart shoppers.
The most famous vehicle history reports are sold by Carfax and Auto check, but you can get some limited background information for free from a variety of sources. These reports are tied to a car’s vehicle identification number and the data is collected over the life of the car. For example, every time the car is smog checked, the date and mileage of the car are recorded and stored in a database. The vehicle history report summarizes all the different data sets in a single document.
What’s on the report?
A vehicle history report tells you everything a potential buyer needs to know about a car’s history. Note, however, that the report does not tell you the current mechanical condition of the car. However, since it tells you how it was handled, it gives you a pretty good idea of the car’s current condition and value. All of this information shows, without having to physically inspect the car, whether you should buy it.
Here is a brief breakdown of some of the information the Vehicle History Report provides:
Title of the salvage: If a car has had a serious accident, fire or flood and has been “totalized” by the insurance company (declared total loss), it can still be ready to drive. However, the insurance company will issue a “salvage title” to warn future buyers. Most of the time, you’ll want to stay away from vehicles with salvage titles as they will affect resale value and the cars may still have hidden problems.
Accidents: Serious accidents will be reported to the insurance company and will likely be included in the vehicle history report. Occasionally, minor accidents are also listed. So don’t assume that every accident is a reason to rule out an otherwise solid used car.
Resetting the odometer: Shady car parks can turn down the odometer to increase the vehicle’s selling price. Historical reports alert you to this scam.
Number of owners and how it was used: It’s nice to think that the car you are interested in was only driven to church by a little old lady on Sunday. But maybe it was a leased car or even a taxi. When you order the report, you will know for sure every time it changes hands.
Maintenance records: Sometimes service visits are listed in the vehicle history report, which shows routine maintenance or repairs performed by a mechanic. Most likely if the car was serviced at a dealership rather than an independent repair shop.
Callback information: This is useful information, but it can be checked for free on other websites.
How much does it cost?
You can purchase individual vehicle history reports or a subscription for a limited time, usually for the number of weeks it takes to shop and purchase a used car. Carfax charges $ 39.99 for a single report, or you can get unlimited reports for $ 54.99 for 60 days. AutoCheck is $ 24.99 for one report or 25 reports for 21 days for $ 49.99.
Free information on used cars
A free way to get basic information about a used car is to visit the National Insurance Crime Office. If you enter the identification number of the car you want to buy, you can at least see if it has a salvage title or if it was stolen.
Another way to get free vehicle history reports is through online classifieds for cars. A link to the vehicle’s Carfax or AutoCheck is often provided so you don’t even have to enter the awkward VIN.
If you are buying used cars in person, either from an independent used car dealer or a car dealership, simply ask the seller for the vehicle history report. Almost all dealerships have an ongoing subscription to one of the vehicle history reports and should provide the report free of charge. It’s a red flag if the seller refuses to show you the report or presents an outdated report.
How accurate are vehicle history reports?
Computer experts sometimes say: “Garbage in, garbage out”. The same goes for vehicle history reports. With so many sources of reporting – insurance agencies, vehicle registers, mechanics, etc. – the occasional mistake or critical information is left out. Both AutoCheck and Carfax include “buyback guarantees”. So, if you bought a car because of incorrect information, these companies will buy the car from you. It only covers a few errors, however, so read the fine print carefully.
Consider the Vehicle History Report as the first step in deciding whether to buy a used vehicle that you found in an online classified ad. Look into the vehicle’s history before calling the owner or driving across town to inspect it. What you see will help you shut out that car – or move forward with confidence.