Free Vs. Paid Vehicle History Reports
If you’re in the market for a used car, you may have heard the phrase “Vehicle History Report” being batted around. This is pretty much what it sounds like- a report that will tell you the details of a vehicle’s history (accessed using the VIN number) and help give some insight on whether a vehicle is a good purchasing decision.
What’s less clear is where to go for your Vehicle History Report, and whether you should cough up the cash for a paid service or just stick to the free. Let’s have a gander at your different options for obtaining a Vehicle History Report on a desired ride.
As a general rule, free Vehicle History Reports will usually notify you of the major red flags in a vehicle’s past but won’t get into greater detail.
One option is to consult our old pal the U.S. government, who kindly offers free VIN checks through the National Insurance Crime Bureau. A report from these guys will generally provide you with data on the vehicle’s current title and last title date, brand history, odometer reading, total loss history, and salvage history. Just keep in mind that records can take up to six months to appear in the federal database, and will only show up at all if the incident was recorded by an insurance company.
Another quick free check can be done by plugging the VIN into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database. This will let you know if a vehicle has been recalled.
The most comprehensive free check out there can be obtained through VehicleHistory.com. This check will get you info on performance, inspections, specifications, safety rating, warranty, and others. It will also tell you where the vehicle has been listed for sale, its list price and sale price, and parts/component status.
Another service to look into is VINCheckPro, which will give you a free basic report, but charge you for more details.
Finally, one great strategy is to simply try asking the dealership! Most dealerships have subscriptions to CarFax or another paid service, so they can get an in-depth report for you. Even independent sellers may pay for a report if they feel it will help them make the sale.
Your other option is to pay for a report, which will generally get you a more comprehensive rundown. Two common providers of paid Vehicle History Reports are CarFax and AutoCheck.
Paid reports will typically include a description, overall evaluation of the vehicle, and the dates and locations for when it was serviced and sold. They’ll also tell you if the car has been registered in numerous states by previous owners, recalled, or repurchased by the manufacturer under the lemon law.
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How much does a Vehicle History Report cost?
To give some examples of prices for paid reports, CarFax charges $39.99 for one report or $59.99 for five. AutoCheck charges $24.99 for one report, or $49.99 to access 25 reports within 21 days. But again, try asking your dealer and you may get a free one.