A vehicle history report (VHR) is a statement that will let you know information about the ownership and repair history about a specific vehicle. This can be a very important tool if you are considering purchasing a used car. Using the Internet, you can very easily obtain a free VHR, but the information that is available for free is often quite limited. You need to know how to evaluate the abbreviated VHR that you can get for free and find alternate ways to get a complete VHR.
Evaluating the Vehicle History Report that You Need
- 1 Know the limitations of the information you can get for free. The Internet has many commercial sites that provide VHRs. The free information, however, is limited. For example, CarFax advertises a free “myCarFax.com” report, which provides your car’s service history, upcoming service alerts, and information about recalls.Other sites with free reports provide similar information that is based generically on your car’s make and model, but is not specific to the car’s VIN. Free reports typically provide the following generic information:
- manufacturing details, such as chassis type, engine size, country of assembly, and engine power
- a general summary of what the full report would contain if you choose to purchase it.
- 2 Understand the contents of a full report. The five most commonly used sources for purchasing a VHR are CarFax, AutoCheck, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), which has two different sources. A full VHR, which you can usually purchase for a fee that ranges between $10 and $40, includes the following information about the specific car, based on its VIN:
- ownership history
- clean title/ownership verification
- periodic odometer readings
- maintenance records
- history of rental or lease
- accident repair history
- flood repair history
- 3 Investigate a free report from VehicleHistory.com. Until recently, full VHRs have only been available for purchase. As of December 2015, however, a source called Vehicle History (web address www.VehicleHistory.com) is offering a full VHR for free. The report from Vehicle History contains the following information:
- vehicle ownership records
- vehicle information
- government records
- public records
- background history
- historical records
- state records
- 4 Decide if you need to purchase a full report. If you are considering the purchase of a used car, the information that is available in a full report is generally worth the cost of the purchase. Purchasing a full VHR is usually less than $50, which is very small compared to the price of the car itself. As Consumer Reports points out, even if a mechanic tells you that the car is in good condition, the history of an accident, flood damage, or some similar incident in the car’s history can greatly reduce its value.
- VehicleHistory.com appears to offer a full report for free. However, this is a relatively new resource, and less has been written about the validity of VehicleHistory.com than the other sources. Consumer Reports recommends that buyers consider comparing reports from multiple sources.
Generating a Free Vehicle History Report
- 1 Find your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can find your car’s VIN in several places. In addition to appearing in the manual and on several important documents, the VIN is also printed on a sticker and adhered to various parts of the car. Check the door jamb on the driver’s side, the front of the engine block, underneath the spare tire, and the rear wheel well.
- 2 Select a service. A number of online services offer free basic VHRs. If you intend eventually to purchase a VHR, run your free report with a trusted and reputable service, such as AutoCheck . AutoCheck (as well as CarFax) are trusted auto data providers that car dealers and auto auctions use. This will allow you to assess the company and become familiar with the site’s interface before purchasing a complete VHR.
- Several dealerships will list a used car with a link to a free CARFAX VHR report. You may also search for used cars on CARFAX’s website. Each listing comes with a free CARFAX VHR.
- 3 Enter the required information and run the report. When running a free VHR, you will need to enter the VIN. You may also need to provide a zip code, license plate number, or the state in which the car is registered. After providing all of the requested information and accepting any terms and conditions, click “Submit” or “Run.” The site will automatically load your free VHR.
- A complete VHR will separate information into the following sections: vehicle history and report summary, value calculator, ownership history, title history, additional history, and detailed history. A free report will contain components of each section, but the information will not include as many details. Since the free VHR is vague, it may also be harder to interpret.
- When you get the vehicle history report, confirm that the title on the car is clear, meaning it isn’t listed as a salvaged vehicle and doesn’t have a lien against it.
Requesting that the Dealership Runs the Vehicle History Report
- 1 Demonstrate your interest in a car. Before requesting that the dealership or previous owner pay for a VHR, demonstrate that you are a serious buyer. Devote your attention to one car instead of several cars on the lot. Talk to the salesperson about the vehicle and your financing options. Take the car for a test drive. Have the car looked over by a trusted mechanic.
- 2 Request that the dealership pay for the VHR. Dealerships often subscribe to a VHR service. This allows them to run VHRs economically on every car in their inventory. After demonstrating your interest in a vehicle, express your interest in the car to the salesperson and indicate that you have a few reservations. Indicate that the dealership’s willingness to pay for the VHR would ease your remaining concerns about making the major purchase.
- When talking to the salesperson, you could say: “I really love this car but I have a few reservations. My last car was in the shop all of the time and I want to make sure this vehicle doesn’t have a long history of repairs. In order to commit to the car, I need to see a detailed vehicle history report. This would really ease my concerns. Would you be willing to provide me with one?”
- Wait until you are close to purchasing the car to request a VHR. A dealer is unlikely to run these reports on a number of vehicles.
- 3 Assess the dealership’s response. If the salesperson willingly runs the VHR for you, thank the salesperson! If the salesperson refuses to run the VHR or hands you an outdated VHR, proceed with caution. These red flags indicate that the dealership is hiding something about the car’s history. Walk away from the sale or pay for a complete VHR.
Generating a Free Fraud Check
- 1 Search for the National Insurance Crime Bureau. To avoid purchasing a stolen vehicle, always run the VIN through the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s database. You can access this database at www.nicb.org.
- 2 Navigate to the “VIN Check” page. Locate the “Theft and Fraud Awareness” tab on the top navigation bar. When you hover your cursor over the the tab, a drop-down menu will appear. Move your cursor to the “VIN Check” tab. After clicking on the tab, you will be redirected to the VIN Check Page.
- 3 Enter the required information. Type in the VIN number. Verify the terms of service and enter a captcha code. Click “Submit.” View any history of car theft or other police reports related to the car.
- VinCheck keeps 5 years of history that will help prevent fraudulent vehicle transfer.
- You are allowed 5 searches from the same IP address.