What is a Used Car Vehicle History Report?
A good vehicle history check can dig up ghosts from a used car’s past, like accident damage, flood damage, and whether or not the odometer has been tampered with, and other services can provide other information. Carfax, a service that takes a look at everything from lemon complaints to service records to give you the best possible picture of the car’s past. You can also search for the history of a vehicle by visiting VehicleHistory.gov. Here are some things to look for when reading a used car vehicle history report:
Clean title: Through the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the history report may be able to identify if the vehicle was ever stolen or if the title is fraudulent.
Number of owners: Statistics prove that the fewer owners a used vehicle has had, the more reliable it is. History reports will show you exactly how many owners the vehicle has had.
Odometer reading: Many history reports will report on the last odometer reading reported to the state. If there is a significant discrepancy, it is a sign that the vehicle may have been tampered with.
Rental or fleet: Was the car used as a rental or part of a fleet? If it has been, it may have been abused or driven carelessly by previous drivers.
Lemons: Most states have lemon laws that protect car buyers from faulty products. If the original owner invoked those laws for whatever reason (usually repeated, inexplicable repairs) the history report will let you know, protecting you from picking up a car that could cause more headaches than it’s worth.
Flood cars: Cars that have suffered flood damage are sometimes moved to other states and sold to unsuspecting customers. If the used car you are interested in buying has had flood damage reported to the state, it is most likely listed in the history report.
Salvage history: Vehicles in major car accidents are often reported as salvage, or a total loss, to the state, which brands the car’s title. A car with a salvage history has usually suffered severe structural damage beyond the scope of repair. This information helps consumers avoid purchasing a potentially unsafe vehicle.
In the end, a vehicle history report is only part of the buying process. If your Carfax report or title search shows a red flag in any important category, it shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker. Rather, it simply lets you know the car you want to take home should be carefully inspected by a trusted, professional mechanic before you sign the title. If the car comes back with a good bill of health and you still aren’t sure, trust your gut and walk away. There are plenty of good used cars out there.