What to Look for in a Vehicle History Report
If you’ve been on the hunt for a used vehicle that you can depend on, you know how easy it is to end up in the wrong car! Although there are many benefits to buying used, those who fail to do their research can wind up behind the wheel of a real junker. Knowing what questions to ask and taking a test drive can help to eliminate the worst options, but only a vehicle history report can give you the hard facts you’ll need to make the right decision.
A vehicle history report is sometimes referred to as a vehicle identification number (VIN) report. This is because it’s the VIN that’s used to track the vehicle when it changes hands or moves around.
Looking Over Your VIN Report
Looking at a piece of paper is no substitute for getting behind the wheel and testing a car out for yourself, but it’s still an essential step to take before you buy. When you scan the vehicle history report, you should try to answer several key questions, which can help you quickly determine if your choice is worth buying:
1. How many owners has a vehicle had?
If there have been many previous owners in a short amount of time, it’s unlikely that the car has been properly maintained.
2. Has the car been totaled?
If it has been labeled a total loss, you’ll see a “Salvage Title” designation on the report.
3. How many miles has the vehicle seen? How have they been accrued?
Many miles accrued in a short interval will put more wear on a vehicle than the same number of miles accrued over a long period of time.
4. Has the vehicle been in any accidents?
If so, has it suffered structural damage? Small accidents are no big deal, but structural damage will shorten a vehicle’s lifespan and resale value.
5. Has a vehicle been stolen?
If so, were any parts replaced with third-party substitutes?
6. Is any of the information in the report different from what I’ve been told by the seller?
Discrepancies are almost always indicative of a major red flag.
Some drivers may wonder if it’s possible to get a free vehicle history report or a free VIN check before they buy. Although there are some providers that offer a free check, the reports themselves are never expensive, and it’s usually better to pay a few dollars for information that you’re sure you can trust! The experts who run the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System have a list of recommended vehicle history report providers.
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