We receive vehicle history questions all the time, as many used car buyers aren’t quite sure how the whole process works.
In reality, it’s all quite simple. The companies that provide this information have made it very easy to check out any used vehicle you are considering, so you’ll know within minutes whether it’s worth buying or you should keep on looking.
Here are the most common questions we receive:
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a series of 17 numbers and letters that are unique to each vehicle. It is located on a metal plate at the lower corner of the front windshield on the driver’s side, as well as several other locations. Make sure you write it down accurately before you enter it, as you won’t be able to get a report if any of the 17 characters are missing or inaccurate.
The Vehicle History Report will reveal important information about your car including the year, make, model, trim and restraint system as well as mileage readings and any hidden problems that might not be visible to the untrained eye. This could be major damage from collision, fire, hail or water damage, odometer rollback or tampering, lemon or junk status, and much more! It’s a full picture of a car from the first registration to the last.
The initial record check is always FREE. After you enter your VIN in the box to the left it will reveal how many DMV records are available for your vehicle. From there you can get a Full Report for only $29.99, 25 reports for $49.99 or unlimited reports for only $99.99. It is usually best to opt for the 25 or unlimited reports, because chances are you will be checking more than one vehicle. What are the chances that the first one you check will be the one you end up with? Pretty slim. So this is a small price to pay to avoid a potentially dangerous vehicle, no matter which option you choose.
The Vehicle History Report is available for all vehicles built in 1981 or later. This is the year a 17-character VIN became standard in the industry. It is not possible to trace the history of vehicles manufactured prior to this time.
If you can’t get the VIN for one reason or another, or if the sequence isn’t clear or hard to read, you can run a search using the license plate number. So if you have the plate number and the state, you can conduct a search as well. But keep in mind that it won’t be as thorough as the VIN search, because it only reveals the history of that particular car from the time it had that plate. If there was a previous owner, or multiple owners, your report based on the license plate won’t have that information.
Absolutely. It’s the only way to really know what the story is. Even if you are buying the used car from a reputable dealer, it’s possible that he or she is not aware of some hidden problem. They may have recently purchased the car from someone else and not bothered to fully check it out as they knew they were just going to turn around and sell it to someone else. It could simply be an oversight. So it always makes sense to do your due diligence and run a report before you buy. Isn’t it worth less than a hundred bucks to avoid thousands of dollars in future problems?