A vehicle history report contains a boatload of information on a specific car which includes previous owners, open recalls and damage, odometer readings, accidents, and repairs. You can usually get one online or through a dealership or seller.
If you are considering a used vehicle, the process of purchasing a car can be tricky. Whether you are buying or selling, you can make sure that the process will go smoothly—a vehicle history can help. A vehicle history report can tell you the vehicle’s past. The report includes details like who owned the car, work they had done to the vehicle, and if the vehicle had been in some accidents.
This information can help you confirm whether the vehicle has hidden issues if you are buying a used car. Providing a vehicle history report for prospective buyers can help put their minds at ease about the vehicle’s history and increase your odds of selling the car. Take a look at some of the vital information included in a vehicle history report, as well as where to get one and what to do next once you get the report.
Here is some useful information you can find in a vehicle history report.
A vehicle history report contains basic information about the vehicle’s past.
1. Previous Owners and How they Used the Vehicle – This information is essential to understanding how the vehicle was used in the past. It will answer the following questions:
Was the vehicle used for business or personal matters?
Were there multiple owners?
Was it used as a rental car or taxi, making it more prone to wear and tear?
2. Accident History and Damage – This information will tell you whether the vehicle was involved in any major accidents, or if it had been damaged relating to flood, which can help you confirm if the vehicle is still safe to drive or not.
- Title information and Liens held on the Vehicle – The vehicle history report should contain a vehicle’s title history, which includes any salvage-title branding. A branded or salvage title signifies that the vehicle was declared a total loss following a theft or accident. A vehicle with a branded title might have an impending need of extensive repairs or have hidden problems. Take note that driving a vehicle with a branded title is illegal in some states.
This title can also help you check if the seller is the actual owner of the vehicle.
With this title, you will also be able to check if there is a lien on the vehicle, that could mean that the seller still owes money on the car. If a loan is not paid back according to terms, creditors or other third parties could have the right to repossess the vehicle. Additionally, before the car title can be assigned to you, the seller may need to get permission before selling the vehicle and pay off the car loan or roll the balance onto a new loan.
- Recall Notices and Service History – The details of the vehicle’s service history can give you a clear picture of how well the previous owners maintained the vehicle. It will be indicated on the report if the vehicle has any open recalls that you may need to address.
- Odometer Readings – The vehicle history report should include the most recent reading of the odometer. Once you look at the car, the odometer readings from the report should match the numbers of the car’s odometer. If the number does not match, there is a high probability that the seller may have tampered it. It is a red flag when buying, if the car’s odometer has been tampered.
How to get a Vehicle History Report?
Usually, you will be required to provide the vehicle identification number or VIN to get a vehicle history report. The VIN has 17 characters which comprises digits and capital letters. On most cars, you may find the VIN on the front of the dashboard on the driver’s side, as well as on the car’s registration card and insurance documents. And the quickest way to see it is to look through the windshield from outside the car. In other cases, you may find the VIN on the driver’s side door pillar.
Where to get a Vehicle History Report?
There are a number of websites that you can use like AutoCheck, Carfax, and instaVIN, to get a vehicle history report, provided that you have the VIN. Normally, the report costs somewhere around $10 to $40. The National Insurance Crime Bureau or NICB, allows up to five free VIN checks in a 24-hour period from the same IP address. The NICB’s database can help you determine if the car is a salvage vehicle or it has been reported stolen.
You may be able to get a vehicle history report for free, if you are buying a used car from a dealership or shopping through an online marketplace.
What to do NEXT after getting a Vehicle History Report?
Although it will not give you the complete story of the car, the vehicle history report can still tell you a lot about the car. Most of the information on the vehicle history report is similar to the information reported by insurance companies and police departments. The accident might not show up on the report if it was not reported. And even if it was reported, there is a huge chance that it will take months for it to appear on the vehicle history report.
Aside from relying on the vehicle history report, you can also make certain that the car you are about to buy is not a lemon. Here’s a couple of things you can do:
Get it inspected – To determine whether the car you are interested in buying is worth your money, have it checked by a professional mechanic or your trusted service facility. Employ a service mechanic to do an ocular and physical inspection to determine if the car has any underlying issues or any potential problem. You will have to shell out some cash but it is definitely worth your money. This kind of inspection will help put your mind at ease because at the end of the day you know that the car you bought can be relied on.
Test Drive – One of the most important parts of car shopping is the test drive. Planning your route ahead of time will give you the chance to thoroughly feel how the vehicle runs. Ideally, you should take it somewhere you can change gears, check the maneuverability, suspension and braking. According to experts, when you test drive a vehicle, you should take it on the highway and somewhere you can parallel park—to somehow get the chance to see any blind spots the vehicle might have.
In the end, getting a vehicle history report is just the initial part of your research when buying a car. Make sure to thoroughly test drive the vehicle and have it checked by your trusted mechanic before closing the deal. You don’t want to hand out your cash or take out a car loan for some lemon. Right?
Buying a car can be challenging, but doing your homework can help you avoid stressful situations in the future. To be safe from stressful purchases, we have prepared a guide on how to do a VIN check using the NICB’s database—plus a couple more other free VIN check sites.
How important is it to run a VIN check before buying your perfect car?
Let’s just say you have been saving up for months to buy a new car. You finally found the vehicle that caught your eye, bought it, and drove it home, only to get a call a few weeks later. There is an ongoing police investigation because the car was reported to be stolen. In the end, you’ll realize how much time it has taken to clear your name and how much money you’ve lost because you were not really paying attention while running the VIN check. The scenario may be a bit extreme, but it is not far from happening.
You will want to run a VIN check when shopping a car whether it is new or used to confirm that the vehicle is legally available for purchase and to check if it is in good condition.
A trustworthy car dealership will usually provide you with a copy of the VIN report for the car you are interested in buying—free of charge. Ideally, your salesman should review the report with you, pointing out the number of owners, any claims or accidents reported on the vehicle, and any other issues, such as leftover warranties and recalls.
You will want to run a free VIN report on your own to check for major accidents or theft records, if you are buying from a car dealership that does not offer a free VIN check, or if you are purchasing from a private party.
Steps in using the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s Free VIN Check
The database of the National Insurance Crime Bureau is a great tool for running a free VIN lookup search to check for total loss and theft records. In the section below, we have provided you a step-by-step process on how to use the NICB database as a resource to check the history of a vehicle.
As I mentioned earlier, you will need the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN of the vehicle you are looking up at the NICB database. Again, you can find the VIN of the vehicle on either the driver’s side door or on the driver’s side where the dashboard meets the window.
- Once you obtained the VIN of the vehicle in question, go to the NICB VinCheck page and enter VIN where it says “Step 1.”
- In “Step 2,” you have to check the box to agree to the terms and conditions of use.
- For “Step 3,” enter the verification that is shown in the box, then hit “Search.” You will be directed to a page that shows the results of your free VIN lookup.
You will see the information about the vehicle’s total loss or theft records. A total loss record means that the car has been totally damaged and marked as loss in an accident, flood, or fire. While the theft record shows that the vehicle has been marked as stolen at some point in the past.
In cases, when the VIN lookup shows you nothing or it says the vehicle has not been identified, that means that the vehicle has never reported to have any significant damage that would signify a total loss, or the vehicle has never been stolen.
Note: The vehicle will only be listed in the NICB’s database if it has been reported stolen, and a theft or loss record has been generated.
However, if the VIN lookup indicates that there is a record for either total loss or theft, the smartest thing to do is conduct more research to learn the details of the situation to know if the vehicle is good for purchase.
Pros and Cons of using other FREE VIN Check Options
- CarFax – is known for providing detailed VIN reports to consumers. As a matter of act, lots of car dealerships use CarFax to provide their customers the report for the vehicle they are looking to purchase. Although the most detailed CarFax reports cost money, you can still get a basic VIN report on used vehicles listed on CarFax’s website for free. These basic reports show owner history, usage information, accidents reported, and service history.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – they offer a VIN lookup that provides you information about the vehicle’s make and model, so you will know if there are any open recall orders. Having the knowledge about the recall orders will help you determine if the vehicle is safe to drive and if it is facing any costly or lengthy repairs.
- Research.com – offers the most comprehensive free VIN report, providing extensive details about the car’s performance and inspection records, warranty, safety ratings, and more.
Securing the Vehicle Identification Number will help you get a comprehensive Vehicle History report which allows you to easily decide whether to seal the deal and drive the car home or steer clear.