Used Car Vehicle History Report

Vehicle History Reports for Used Cars

Vehicle history reports (VHRs)—also known as car checks, VIN checks, and car history reports—are useful when buying a used car. Vehicle history reports have information about a car's previous owners, mileage, accidents, maintenance records, and more. Get the car history report before buying any used car.

Getting a vehicle history report (also known as a VIN check, VIN report, used car reports, and car history reports) for a used car is as important as a test drive.

Vehicle History Report Information

Vehicle history reports ( VHRs) or vehicle identification number (VIN) checks reveal information about a used car's previous owners and make/model details, as well as detailed information including:

  • Lemon status.
  • Accident history and service records.
  • Total loss and major repairs.
  • Mileage and average miles per year.
  • Lien and ownership history.
  • Warranties remaining on the car.

Many car history report companies also include information about the fair market price range of the specific year, make, and model of vehicle in the history check. Comparing price and car history can help you negotiate the best price.

NOTE: VIN checks or VHRs can also inform law enforcement whether a used vehicle has been reported as stolen. Be wary of a private seller that is reluctant to provide you with a vehicle's VIN number.

Ordering a VHR for a Used Car

If you are buying a used car from a private seller and want the car history, you'll need to pay for a vehicle history report/VIN lookup from companies like CarFax or AutoCheck. Cost of vehicle history reports vary by provider.

VHRs are helpful for both buyers and sellers:

  • If you're buying a used vehicle, a VHR will provide you with insight on whether you're getting a good deal.
  • If you're selling a used car, a VHR will prepare you to answer any questions a buyer may have about the car.

NOTE: Always beware of websites offering free VIN checks or free VIN history reports—these may be scams.

DID YOU KNOW? VIN Lookup vs. Vehicle History Report

A car VIN check or VIN search may also refer to database checks performed by law enforcement and DMV offices to check for stolen vehicles. These agencies will often run a free VIN check to check if a vehicle is stolen if you provide them with the car's information.

Red Flags on Vehicle History Reports

When you obtain your VHR for the used car you are considering purchasing, exercise caution if any of following red flags appear on your vehicle history report:

  • Odometer tampering.
  • Failed emission tests―If you reside in an area requiring emission inspections, you may face a hefty repair bill to make the vehicle street legal and mechanically able to pass a smog check/vehicle inspection.
  • Proof of major accident―Hidden costly and dangerous damages, like cracked frames, are common.
  • Salvaged vehicles.
  • Flood damage―Potential engine damages due to flood damage are difficult to detect and generally expensive to repair.
  • Irregular or missed vehicle maintenance.
  • Forged vehicle history reports― If a vehicle history report looks fake and is coming from a stranger, it may be worth ordering your own.
  • Stolen vehicles―If a law enforcement VIN lookup finds a vehicle is stolen, DO NOT BUY IT.

If you have any lingering questions about something that appears on a vehicle history report/VIN check, contact the company that provided your VHR immediately.

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