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Prudent Vehicle Buying
Get a vehicle history report (VHR) if you want to know what you are buying before you actually open your wallet and part with cash. Although most people selling vehicles are legitimate, there is no shortage of tricksters out there scamming naive buyers.
Many of these shady dealers take advantage of a buyer's lack of knowledge about the vehicle. Thus, a vehicle that was in a flood or headed for a junkyard a few months ago might end up in your driveway, with what appears to be a perfect title. Yet, with just a little research, you can find out everywhere the vehicle has been, and what has happened to it before you buy it.
Part of that research should include obtaining complete vehicle history reports on the vehicles you might be interested in as well as any vehicle you plan to buy. The only thing you need to spark the process is the vehicle identification number (VIN). These 17-digit numbers are like DNA for vehicles.
If a vehicle has been in a major accident or has had titles other than the one presented at the time of sale, its VIN will allow you to peek into the history of the vehicle using a VHR. Even if there is suspicion behind the title or the odometer (e.g. rollbacks), the VIN attached to that vehicle will raise a red flag that will be noted on the VHR. Thus, when you go to test drive the vehicle you can ask tough questions and make guarded decisions.
The best way to get a VHR is to buy one. The documents are readily available on the Internet from companies specializing in sorting through the reams of data attached to every vehicle, like our sponsor, AutoCheck.
VHR companies have access to more than 4,000 public and private databases, allowing them to offer an exceptionally thorough and detailed product. You have the choice of buying one report, or a subscription.
A single report contains one history for one vehicle. If you have already decided on the vehicle you want, this option will suit your needs. The single VHR from AutoCheck or CARFAX details every possible blemish on a vehicle's record.
Those who like to shop around a bit will like this option. You can literally run reports (provided you have the VIN) on every vehicle that catches your eye.
On the other side of the sale, dealers can sign up for the unlimited option. Few things can help assuage a buyer's uneasiness like a dealer taking all precautions to ensure the vehicle on the block doesn't have a branded title of some sort. The cost is negligible, especially if the end result is more cars rolling off your lot.
Note that dealers are not allowed to sign up for the consumer option.
If you order a VHR and the title comes back clean, the VHR companies offer buyback protection. If you get a clean report, but a listed title defect shows up, AutoCheck and CARFAX both have programs to buy the vehicle back from you, provided you meet a host of terms and conditions.