From private sales to auctions to used car dealerships, the used car market is a vast and versatile place. If you're in the market for a car, though, it can seem overwhelming. One of the best things you can do to ensure a safe, worthy vehicle is to familiarize yourself with the car's accident history. Unfortunately, if you're buying from someone other than the original owner, they may not know. And, some owners may not be as honest as they should. With a VIN history report, you can see the car's collision and service history.
Where to Get the Report
If you are buying your used car from an individual in a private sale, you'll have to request the report on your own. There are many services online that offer the reporting service, and the fees can vary. When you're shopping for a used car from a dealership, most dealers will provide you with a VIN history report if you request it.
What to Do Once You Have the Report
Getting a VIN history is great, but if you don't know what information to focus on, it may not help you. Here's a look at some of the things you should be attentive to.
Check the Accident Reports
The first thing to look for in a VIN history is the accident report section. Most VIN history reports will provide not only the date and type of accident, but also the severity of the damage as reported by the insurance company or in the police report. For example, if the car only suffered light cosmetic damage, the report may say that it was driven away from the scene. That's a good sign – it means it didn't suffer enough damage to cause serious problems. If the VIN history says that the car was towed from the scene or suffered extensive damages, you'll want to be a bit more cautious about your purchase.
Verify the Title Status
Sometimes, the condition of the title itself tells you more about the damage that a car has suffered than the accident details. For example, if the VIN report indicates that the car has been issued a salvage title, it means that the damage suffered exceeded the insurance company's value of the car. The salvage title is issued as an indicator that the car was a total loss. If it's been sufficiently rebuilt according to the state's safety standards, the salvage title may be labeled as a rebuild. That means the state has verified that it was road-worthy after the repairs.
Who Did the Repair Work?
If you've determined that the car has an accident history of any kind, you'll want to find out about who did the repairs. It's important to ensure that all of the repairs were done either by a licensed professional or up to the necessary safety standards. If you're buying the car in a private sale, ask to see copies of the work orders so you can see not only what was done, but who did the work.
When the current owner doesn't have the records, you'll have to turn to a trusted mechanic for an evaluation of the car's current condition. In most cases, a mechanic can tell you if certain repair work was done by a professional with manufacturer-authorized parts. If the repair work was done by a haphazard shop or the pieces don't fit correctly, that's a sign that you'll want to choose a different car.
Before you invest in a used car from any source, it's in your best interest to request a VIN history report. This will tell you important details about the car's history that the current owner or sales representative may not know. Additionally, work with a professional who can ensure that the work on the car matches the reports and is safe. The more proactive you can be about safety inspections, the better quality car you'll end up with. Keep this information in mind as you check out local used car sales.