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If you’re buying a used car, you hope that it’s been well cared for and is in good condition. You’d like to be able to trust that the seller is giving you the full truth about the car, but it pays to verify all the information you can by obtaining the car’s vehicle history report.
In fact, unless the person you’re buying the car from is the original owner, he or she may not even be aware of everything pertinent in a car’s history.
Used car history report: What is it? A vehicle history report will include past records of auto data from:
- state DMV’s,
- auto auctions,
- car dealers, accidents reported by police departments, and
- repair shops.
Make sure you have it inspected, take it for a test drive, and obtain more than one vehicle history report.
- Perhaps most importantly, you’ll be able to learn if an auto insurance company has declared the vehicle a total loss and given it a salvage title. If this is the case, an insurance company may not be willing to offer any coverage at all, or at best, cover the vehicle only in a limited way.
- Look at the odometer readings section to identify any discrepancies. Mechanics record the mileage at various points in a car’s history, so check to make sure there’s an appropriate increase over time.
- You’ll be able to see if the vehicle has been in an accident that’s been reported to the police or insurance company. The car may have incurred extensive body damage as a result.
- The vehicle history report will let you know if the car has ever been reported as stolen. Thieves may have stolen parts of the car’s original equipment, which may have eventually been replaced with cheaper parts.
Number of owners
- If a person tells you that they’re the original owner so they know the vehicle’s entire history, you can verify this information with the vehicle history report. In addition, a large number of owners may mean that the car didn’t always receive the proper care and maintenance, or that it has problems that other owners were eager to pass along to the next buyer.
Failed emission tests
- A vehicle history report will contain information about any failed emission tests. If so, and you live in a state that requires these tests, you may face potentially expensive repairs in order to ensure that it passes and you’re able to legally drive it.
Lemon law status
- “Lemon laws” help protect car buyers from cars that have persistent problems, and a vehicle history report will let you know if a particular vehicle has been repurchased under a state Lemon Law program.
- If a car was sold across state lines in an auction, this can be a red flag. This method has been used by dishonest auto brokers to sell cars that have been totaled or that have rolled-back odometers.
A history of leases or rental
- If a vehicle history report indicates that a car has been leased or rented, this may mean that it was driven a high number of miles during some years and may not have received the care that a driver/owner would usually provide.
- Some vehicle reports detail maintenance records, so you can find out if a car has had major damage or issues in the past. Alternatively, you can also see if maintenance has been sporadic.
Several different companies and agencies provide vehicle history reports, and they can each provide different information.
It can pay to get a report from several different services, such as:
There are also plans that let you buy unlimited reports for a certain period of time if you’re still shopping around.
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