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  • How VHR Data is Compiled

    The Basics

    Vehicle history reports (VHRs) enable you to approach buying a used car with confidence. To a large degree, the reports lessen the advantage a seller has over a buyer in a vehicle sale. A VHR from our partner lists trouble a vehicle has encountered over the course of its life. This includes information on being salvaged, damaged by flood, fire, accidents, or theft, and other helpful details like the number of recalls that vehicle has undergone.

    But a VHR doesn't just aid a buyer. A seller might find that a VHR helps him or her part with the vehicle faster and at a better price. Thus, regardless of which side of the sale you sit, a VHR, especially for the slight cost to obtain one, will come in handy.

    Of course, you might look over a VHR completely perplexed by the sheer wealth of information for just one car. Then it might occur to you to question where the data comes from and how our partner actually gets it.

    The Numbers Game

    The whole process begins with a vehicle identification number (VIN). This is the 17-digit number given to every car that has rolled off the assembly line since 1981. So figure there are (give or take a few million) anywhere from 480 million to 600 million vehicles fighting for parking spaces on the globe.

    Because the VIN only became a standardized feature etched into vehicles in 1981, our partner can not collect any data on vehicles made before that year. Keep that in mind should you want to buy an old Nova with an in-dash 8-track player.

    So you now know the VIN is the key that starts the entire process. But what exactly do these 17 digits reveal, and where does the information come from? The our partner digs deep into more than 4,000 data-supply depots. From here, the number leaps into the billions; that's how many records are scanned for information for each VHR.

    Public Records

    The easiest place to begin any vehicle data search is with registration and title details. Generally, to use your vehicle on a road or highway, you must register it. In order to register a vehicle, you need a title or to be able to show that one day you will own the title. Of course, to obtain a title you need a VIN. Most of this information is accessible through the DMV, county offices, or state offices and is public record.

    Observing title data alone divulges plenty about each vehicle, including whether it's a car or truck or has endured time with salvage or junk papers. A close look at the title history can also, to the experienced eye, disclose criminal activity like title washing.

    Other public sources include the police and fire departments. Thus, if a vehicle has significant bumps and bruises, enough to require an accident report, a VHR company will find out. This is where you can also learn whether you are buying a car that spent time in the police fleet. Fire department records will, of course, let the fact finder know of any explosions or fires that put a vehicle out of commission.

    Private Records

    our partner can obtain some really gritty details from private sources like insurance companies, auction houses, and fleet and rental companies. The depth of its databases allow a prospective buyer to find out if a vehicle survived a flood, is a lemon, or has serious problems keeping the odometer straight. Auction houses are gold mines for companies such as our partner. They are a bit like police informants: in on the action but willing to spill the goods. So whether it is sniffing out gray market models, fleet vehicles, stolen SUVs, or repossessed finds, an auction house database can provide the info.