VIN Check: How and Why Get Vehicle History Reports
- Always start with VIN Check and get the vehicle history report when you buy a used car.
- Always have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic before you buy it.
Remember these two simple rules. They:
Can protect you from a disastrous purchase and losing thousands of dollars or even health and life, in case of a vehicle with hidden safety defect.
Save your time. VIN history helps weed out all bad optoins form the very start and prevents spending hundreds of dollars on the inspection of a vehicle you wouldn't buy just knowing its background. An inspection costs 100-200$ or even more for certain vehicle types and you want to pay just once. It takes minutes to get a vehicle history report and stop wasting time if there is a problem. The problems averting people from buying decisions include but are not limited to : lemon or junk title or another branded title you were not aware of, or even if you are aware of the branded title, a prior damage more severe that the title or the seller discloses. Even the mere fact that the vehicle has been registeted and used in the area exposed to floods or storms will make meny buyer shift to another option. For instance, the vehicle might sustain water damage which was not reported and/or the vehicle has never been owned by an insurance company and so the title remains clean.
The VIN is a 17-character letter-and-digit code found in different locations on a vehicle, usually on stationary parts hard to exchange or remove. It encodes the basic information about a vehicle, like make, model, year, basic and some optional specifications. This is a unique code that remains the same until the vehicle's destruction and all the data reported on a specific vehicle during its entire lifespan is attached to this number.
What are the hidden problems exposed during VIN checks?
Any used car may have one or several problems listed below:
- flood, fire, hail, frame or other major damage (indicated on the title or not)
- undisclosed salvage title or another branded title
- odometer rollback
- mileage inconsistency or mileage records raising questions, even if there is no solid evidence of odometer rollback
- title washing
- police, taxi, driver education, rental or other not-so-critical but undesired use history
- loan / lien
- theft (recovered and not)
- multiple owners
- severe accident
- lemon title
The full list of potential issues found via VIN check is longer or they may combine in one vehicle. We will try to cover each of them in detail on our webiste. As you might have deducted from the above definition of the VIN, the problem of faking the code also exists and this can be tracked by VIN check. Or at least, suspicios 'biography' items may poke out. We will also touch upon this and ways to avoid being taken for a ride by a forged VIN so you can buy with maximum peace of mind that can be attained. Here you will also find some tips on interpreting your VIN reports.
Can I check vehicle history free?
The answer depends on how much detail and records you expect to get. For a detailed history including mileage and service records the answer will most likely be "no" unless you buy from an inventory or a dealer certified by or partnering with a vehicle history company. In this case the report from at least one provider will be included and available for you to study. Hard to say by how much vehicle prices will differ from those of other sellers.
Generally, the free lookup shows the number of events reported on the vehicle. An event can be just anything: a regular emission inspection or odometer reading report, a registration event, an ownership change, a loan that was fully paid off long ago, a reported scratch received on a parking lot, or a major accident, theft, flood damage and unrebuildable or salvage title. Just anything. You may try searching a local DMV databases or theft databases for free records. Which, however won't represent complete history with date-and-event sequences but rather a pass/fail check for a certain aspect, like, if you are lucky, theft or salvage title, generally as they are at the moment of lookup. Another option frequently associated with free VIN check (or goes as a part of it with some worthy VIN history sites) is free decoding. It won't display any specific events reported on a VIN, only the vehicle's factory specifications. However, that information can be of some use as well. For instance, if the vehicle's engine is different from that in basic history specifications that needs your attention and is a reason to ask questions.
Is VIN history enough to make a safe purchase?
It's a must when it comes to pre-purchase vehicle check, but sometimes not enough to estimate the actual cost of the car which is based on its wear, especially if the VIN check history discovers odometer rollback, accidents with at least 'moderate' damage, airbag deployment or a total loss event. Although the spotted mileage inconsistency is not the reason why a car is deemed total loss it devalues the vehicle or, to be more precise, impedes a more or less accurate evaluation. A carefully driven and properly maintained car will last much longer than the same car with the same or even smaller odometer reading but neglected or driven on ruts and humps of kept in a flood area, or used as rental/taxi vehicle. Naturally, the seller will do his best to conceal the signs of wear or negligence or stains from water impact. If you are not sure about your proficiency in car examination and understanding which constituents build up the actual cost of a used car, don't go to inspect it alone. Ask someone experienced to help you or better hire an independent mechanic (NOT the one recommended by the seller!) after running VIN research. Give you mechanic your vehicle history report and express all your concerns based on it so that he knew what to pay close attention to. You may present the report after the examination but don't make the mechanic dig for the information all by himself. For instance, the consequnces from water damage may appear only months or even years later in electirc systems and at unpredictable spots and times, and the damage may not be seen to the eye. But the mechanic knows better what to expect from this model in these circumstances if he knows the problem. After all, it's the mechanic's job to dig deeper, lift the car to inspect the underneath, your test-driving notes or test-drive with you, etc. If you are buying a vehicle at an online auction and don't have the opportunity to order inspections it is highly recommended to get vehicle history information from all available sources for the most complete picture because sometimes certain records are present with just one report provider and missing from others. Using the form on this page will also give you an idea about the best ways to get the maxinum information.
VIN Research Options
Unfortunately, not all car shoppers know that VIN history can be checked across all states and check only with the local DNV office.
To start with, there are NO comprehensive free reports. The good news is that there are places where you can get a full vehicle history report really cheap.
- If you want to get a basic report that eliminates major problems for a very low price or offer pass\fail checks for major problems or at lest about current title brands check with local DMV sites. The data in scanty and depends on state rules, but better than nothing.
- If you want a FULL report for the lowest price check for options from multiple different providers, like CARFAX and Autocheck + autions, if the vehcile was sold at any (good news it if wasn't)
Unlike just a few years ago, today most history report services cover all vehicle types in addition to cars: motorcycles, trucks, RVs / motorhomes, trailers, campers, buses and even classic car VIN numbers can be found in DMV databases. The latter have little of what you might call history though, you can only count on a branded title record check and the registration date, if any reported but hardly any comprehensive data. The number of records for cars is typcally larger than for other vehicle types. Additionally, for motorhomes in certain cases it is recommended to do chassis number check, here you can read why.
Never order the independent car inspection before you check the VIN and get the vehicle history report! Don't run the risk of losing thousands of dollars or even life, yours or your loved ones'! Still not sure you need a VIN report? Check out the cost of a lemon law attorney and auto insurance and think again!
Run VIN Number Check - Know What You Are Buying!