What to look for in a vehicle history report

what to look for in a vehicle history report
March 14, 2019

A vehicle history report is one of the first things you should get when looking at buying a used car. It is a way to safeguard you against scammers and dishonest sellers, and make sure that the car you are buying is safe, and worth the asking price.

A vehicle history report is exactly what it says, a report of the history of a car. Vehicle history reports in general use a vehicle’s VIN number, or vehicle identification number, to trace the history of a vehicle. A VIN number is a 17 digit number that contains information on everything from the color of the car, where it was manufactured, engine size, body type, year model, serial number, and other attributes. Every vehicle has a unique VIN number and remains unchanged throughout the lifespan of the vehicle. Vehicle history reports are designed to help you decide whether a vehicle is worth the selling price based on its history.

There are numerous ways in which to obtain a car’s history report, with companies like CarFax, AutoCheck, and VINchain offering different types of reports for a fee. These companies offer various levels of detail within their reports. Of these, VINchain, a new blockchain-based application, provides extremely detailed reports for a fraction of the price of the more established providers, and is well worth checking out. You can also obtain a basic history from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or NMVTIS.

As mentioned before, not all history reports are created equal, and it can be a little confusing when it comes to choosing a provider that’s best for you. Here is a breakdown of what you should look for in a vehicle history report, and why:

How many accidents has the car been in, and what was the extent of the damage. Providers pull collision information from sources such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and repair shops. While many used vehicles are involved in collisions, it’s the extent of the damage that’s important. A fender bender is usually not a problem, but if the car has suffered structural damage, you should pay special attention. Structural repairs are difficult to see during an inspection, so to put your mind at ease, you should request the repair documentation from the shop that did the repairs. It’s also a good idea to get the car checked out by a mechanic to. An accident in a vehicle’s history gives you leverage to negotiate a lower price.

Other damage
A vehicle history report should also include information about non-collision damage such as water, fire or hail damage. Outside damage on a car from things like hail or sandstorms can be repaired pretty well, it’s damage to the engine and electronic components that should be of concern. If the report states damage of this nature, get the car checked out by an auto electrician. Technical problems can lead to expensive repairs down the line, not to mention make the car unsafe to drive.

Real mileage
Often the mileage on the odometers of used cars are rolled back by unscrupulous sellers in the hope to secure a better selling price. Even with modern electronic dashboards, scammers find ways to lower the car’s mileage. A vehicle history report should show you what the real mileage reading on the odometer should be. This data gets collected from various sources such as during services and change of ownership. If the reading on the odometer does not match that of the mileage on the history report, stay away!

Service history
One of the most basic things that a vehicle history report should contain is the car’s service history. The service history of a vehicle can give you a glimpse into how well the car was looked after, as well as any repairs, such as wear-and-tear part replacements, that has been done. It will indicate the extent of these repairs, from minor things like the changing of oil or brake discs, to major repairs like engine and transmission overhauls. The latter can greatly reduce the value of the car. If there were major repairs, it’s best to have a mechanic check it out to ensure that the correct parts were used and that the work has been done properly. It should be noted that not all vehicle history reports provide detailed information on services, as some service shops don’t report the work they do on vehicles.

Another important thing to look for in a vehicle history report is how many times the car’s title deed has been changed. If the title information of the car has been changed numerous times, you should tread with caution. While it might not necessarily be the case, frequent title changes, especially in different states, can mean that the vehicle has been salvaged, or written off by the insurance company who deemed it too expensive to repair, it can mean an owner tried to get away from reporting serious damage in another state, or even that the vehicle has been stolen.

A vehicle history report should show you how many owners a vehicle has had. This can be a good indication of the condition of the car, since it’s easier to determine how well the owner looked after the car than when it was owned by a number of people. Try to stay away from cars that were part of businesses such as rental cars, taxis, and fleets. Company cars and rentals are notorious for not being driven hard without consideration for the condition of the vehicle.

Buying a car is a big deal, and you want to know exactly what you’re in for before you part with your hard earned cash. A vehicle history report arms you with the type of knowledge that allows you to make an informed decision when buying a used car.

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