HOW TO INTERPRET A CAR HISTORY REPORT
When purchasing used cars, potential problems are not always immediately apparent. Additionally, a seller may not always be completely forthcoming with all the facts. For these reasons, obtaining a vehicle history report may prove to be invaluable in avoiding a problematic car.
Registered Vehicle History
All registered vehicles are listed on a number of databases in their state, such as at the DMV or RMV. The databases record relevant details regarding the history of the vehicle, including accident reports, number of owners and their locations, and detailed information about the vehicle itself.
There are many third-party companies that will gather all the information from the databases on a particular vehicle into a comprehensive vehicle history report. It is also possible to get a free car history report, though the free reports may contain only basic information.
Know the Pre-Owned Car Facts
All buyers of used vehicles should be sure to get and study a vehicle history report and VIN check before purchase. A free car history report may only detail information such as make, model, year, maintenance history, and repairs, but will probably not include a VIN check, that determines whether the vehicle you are considering is not stolen. In addition to accident reports, a comprehensive report will include whether the vehicle has been damaged by flood, hail, or other natural disasters.
The vehicle history report will also state if there has been a manufacturer's recall and if for any reason there are any financial or credit issues with the car. Other information could include repossession or auction details, if the car has spent time in environments that could be damaging (e.g., close to the beach), and if the car has had any history as a service vehicle (e.g., taxi, police car, etc.).
Certified Used Vehicles
Automobile history reports are a great way to determine the history of the vehicle, however there is no substitute for checking the vehicle yourself or having a certified mechanic do so. Be sure to check the body thoroughly for suspicious markings or signs of repair that may not be listed in a vehicle history report.
Check the odometer against the report carefully to be sure that the reading is accurate, and the VIN report thoroughly to ensure that the vehicle has not been "cloned," (a stolen car that has been masked with a VIN from a similar, legal car). Also make sure that the vehicle does not have a branded title, meaning that it has not been junked, rebuilt or salvaged.
Vehicle history reports are available from a number of sources, and it is easy to get one online. Searching for "free car history reports" will lead you to a number of sites that offer free basic reports. Alternately, you can find more detailed, comprehensive reports online as well. Before purchasing a vehicle take it for a test drive and have a check list to make sure everything is in working condition. Used car buyers should do everything they possibly can to make sure they don't end up with "A Lemon".