Vehicle History Reports have come quite a long way since they were first offered online in the early to mid 90’s. Originally, you had the option to buy a single report on any used vehicle built after 1981 using thw 17 character VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number.
Each car has a unique VIN, and by entering this alphanumeric sequence into a database you can check its history to see if there are any hidden problems that you might not be able to discover yourself or even with the help of a trained mechanic. So the Vehicle History Report was and remains a way to check out a used car before you plunk down thousands of dollars.
There were two main providers of these services at the very beginning…CarFax and AutoCheck (a division of Experian Automotive). Although CarFax has a bigger market share, AutoCheck has held their own and has been able to compete nicely with CarFax online. From the getgo each company has tried to outdo the other to offer something the other does not.
From the single report, the multiple/unlimited reports were born. The companies realized that most of the time people were looking at more than one car. So it made sense to allow them to check more than one car with an attractive price. There were two basic packages offered….up to 5 vehicle history reports or unlimited reports, for up to 30 days or 60 days, and the prices were changed periodically to find the ideal price that worked for people.
The multiple reports became quite popular, as they allowed customers to take their time to choose the vehicle that was ideal for them.
Realizing that there was more to the used car buying process than just checking VINS, CarFax and AutoCheck started coming up with other programs for buyers, including scoring systems, buyback programs (if the reports proved inaccurate), partnerships with online used car dealers and other ways to engage the used vehicle buyers market. So far, some of these new programs have proved quite successful and have been a real coup for CarFax, AutoCheck and other companies.
Fast forward to 2015 and you’ll find a few more companies trying their hand at vehicle history reports. You have Check That VIN, Rig Dig, VIN Audit, InstaVin and others, all offering versions of the vehicle history report and other services. At the end of the day though, the two grandfathers of the industry still offer the most complete reports of all, and although they are more expensive, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
As of today, here are the offerings of the top companies:
The original single report I believe was in the range of $12.99 to $14.99, perhaps even cheaper. Today, you can order a single vehicle history report for $39.99, and it’s valid for up to 60 days. You can order 5 reports for $49.99 or 10 reports for $54.99. The Unlimited Option is no longer available.
They also offer something new called myCarFax, a free service where you can track your service history, get recall information, get service reminders and find member shops near you. There is also a mobile app to make it easier for you.
AutoCheck’s report was a bit cheaper than CarFax’s at the beginning, and it still is. A single report is only $19.99 and you can check that VIN for up to 30 days. The Unlimited Report option is $44.99, and you can check as many cars as you’d like for up to 30 days. You can search by VIN or license plate if the VIN is not available.
As you can see, AutoCheck offers a much less expensive option, and their reports tend to be just as accurate and comprehensive as CarFax’s…if not more so.
As we mentioned above, there are now other players in the game that offer reports for under $10, but as of yet they haven’t been as comprehensive as CarFax and AutoCheck. They simply don’t have the databases to tap into. So it pays to spend another $10 or $20 to discover a hidden problem that might end up costing you thousands of dollars.