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  • Why Run a VHR

    If You Are a Buyer

    Buying a car can trigger anxiety in even those with Everest-tough nerves. And while tricksters abound seeking to consciously take advantage of naive consumers, you'll find that most folks who sell cars aren't crooks. At the same time, don't expect full disclosure either, even from an Eagle Scout trying to part with an old college car.

    However, buyers are not totally at the mercy of the seller. You can close this leverage gap and even out the deal circumstances a bit by reviewing a vehicle history report (VHR), also called a VIN check. Using a car's vehicle identification number (VIN), you can easily run such a report. Note: Older vehicles might not have sufficient VIN numbers to run a VHR.

    Vehicle history reports allow you to buy with a little more confidence and they can make this exciting purchase feel less like a gamble. Why roll the dice and hope the car has a clean record when you can actually know what you are buying? Obtaining a report is as simple as jotting down the VIN and hopping on a computer.

    A reporting agency that specializes in VHRs can take the VIN and run a search for oddities with the vehicle's title for a fee. If the vehicle you have your heart set on has a sordid past, this service will dig it up in much the same way a private investigator researches a person's background.

    What might a search turn up? Things like title blemishes, faulty odometer settings, accident history, flood damage, whether a vehicle was a lemon at some point, and any other check mark against a vehicle that might make you think twice about opening your wallet.

    For example, if you are pining for an advertised Crown Victoria, make sure to run a vehicle history check. You might find out the car served on a police force before going to auction. At auction, the vehicle entered a taxi fleet where a multitude of drivers amassed 600,000 miles on the odometer and crashed the car some 16 times. The last time was fatal for the vehicle and an insurance company totaled the vehicle and sold the remains at yet another auction. The person now offering to sell the car to you lovingly restored it from salvage with new parts and a new engine. You might still buy the car if the custom paint job inspires your inner police person. However, with the vehicle history report, you can make an honest assessment of the sale.

    Few particulars escape the ink of a vehicle history report, because the companies culling the material rely on so many resources, both public and private. But as thorough as these services are, they still might not find every secret in a vehicle's past because of the VIN check. This can be especially true if an accident never made it onto a police report.

    If You Are Privately Selling a Vehicle

    If you are a seller, obtaining a vehicle history report before advertising the car just might help you sell the car faster. After all, when a prospective buyer starts asking questions and looking worried, you can simply hand over the VIN check report. Your willingness to be up front during the sale might build trust with the buyer.

    If You Are a Dealer

    That old economic slogan "the customer is always right" rings true here. In this case, two-thirds of the car-buying public prefers to purchase vehicles with disclosed histories. Thus, it only makes sense to take the extra step and obtain a history for each of the used vehicles you sell, as an added value.

    Even if you have a service department that checks the cars, a piece of paper telling where the vehicle has been might just keep the buyer confident and happy.