Check a car history report

The report also lists the number of recalls associated with all cars of that make, model, and year, as well as where they are manufactured and even their body style. If you have VIN number, the website will check a car's history for, among other things:. Additionally, CarFax can tell you if the car is a "total loss" where the insurance company declares the car a total loss , whether the vehicle has been rebuilt, if it has sustained flood damage, and even if the airbag has ever deployed.

But, CarFax reports are not free. So, why is the service listed in this article? This is where you may be able to get a car dealership to provide you with a CarFax report for free — at least if you are seriously thinking of buying a car. So, if you're at a dealership, feel free to ask for a complimentary CarFax report. If the dealership balks, walk away. There are plenty of other dealers who will happily offer you a free report to try to gain your trust and business. And, when you get the report, the dealership suggests looking for:. That's a telling statement coming from an auto dealership, which, after all, is in business to sell cars.

So, spare yourself the possibility of buying a damaged, used car. This report becomes a valuable source of third-party information. If the dealer refuses to run a vehicle history report or provides an outdated report, it could be a red flag.

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No matter whether you're shopping private-party sellers or at a dealership, it's good to know what you'll get — and what you won't — in these reports. Here's a look at AutoCheck versus Carfax, along with some other providers, and our experience in how they stack up. Carfax is the most well-known provider of vehicle history reports, dating back to the late s, when it faxed reports to its customers. However, it is also the most expensive. Despite being the most expensive service, the Carfax report is the benchmark for all other vehicle history reports.

We've found it to be the most detailed and user-friendly among the vehicle history reports we tested.

If a vehicle has had multiple owners, that's clearly labeled and organized in different sections. Carfax is also the only report to show maintenance dates and records, provided the vehicle was taken to a repair facility that shares its data, which usually means a franchised dealership service department. This information can serve as a guide to what issues the vehicle might have had.

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It also is an indicator that a prior owner took good care of the vehicle. Our opinion: Carfax is pricey but worth it, given that it has the most detailed and user-friendly reports. For many, a clean Carfax report is the first step in getting a good used car. AutoCheck, owned by Experian, is notable for providing a vehicle "score" — a number and a range — such as 85 out of a range of This score shows how the vehicle compares to other similar cars built that year.

It is meant to be a quick way to identify and eliminate vehicles that might have issues, ranging from high mileage to reported accidents. The scale isn't zero to , which can be confusing.

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

Sounds like a good car, doesn't it? But this Civic was in a major accident, declared a total loss and issued a salvage title, according to the report.

The number that matters is the range and, from there, where the particular car scores. In this case, the range for similar Civics was The one we were checking, with a score of 82, was 6 points below the bottom of the range — not a great bet for a used car, in other words. It scored 25 out of a range of Six points seemed to be the deduction for having a salvage title, but the numbers weren't clearly explained.

In the past, AutoCheck charged that for unlimited reports. Our opinion: Although it doesn't quite have the name recognition of Carfax, AutoCheck is worth a look.

Why you need a Vehicle History Check

It's a less expensive alternative for shoppers who plan on running numerous reports. The vehicle score is nice as a quick reference, but don't put too much stock in it. Run by the federal Department of Justice, the system is the only one that's publicly available in the U. It is a less expensive alternative, but based on our experience, you get what you pay for. You won't find any fancy scores or detailed entries of any type in these history reports. These sites should only be used to determine when and where the vehicle was registered and to find out if a branded title was issued.

Our opinion: We would only recommend using this resource to determine if the car you're interested in has a branded title. And even then, it is best used as a secondary check. Save your money for a report from AutoCheck or Carfax.

REVs Check Made Easy

We tested more than a dozen vehicles to see if we could spot any differences and comment on which was the easiest to use. Here's what we found: In our checks, AutoCheck's data was less comprehensive and detailed than Carfax's. For example: We ran a report on a Kia Optima with a salvage title. AutoCheck showed that it had two owners. Carfax listed three owners and caught an accident that hadn't appeared on the AutoCheck report. In comparing the two reports side by side, the AutoCheck report did record the DMV event that began the third owner's tenure, but the report hadn't yet factored that into its at-a-glance owner count.

We found it difficult to determine when and for how long each person owned the vehicle on the AutoCheck report. We also ran a report on a Infiniti QX56 that spent most of its life in Florida. Carfax had 10 service reports, including one to replace the drive belts.

That's an expensive repair and good to know about. AutoCheck did not have that information. And thanks to the fact that Carfax shows maintenance records, its report indicated approximately when the car arrived in California. AutoCheck's last recorded incident was from Florida in If you were only going by the AutoCheck report, you wouldn't know where the car had been over the past three years.

These reports do little to flesh out the actual backstory of a car. A vehicle history report isn't going to guarantee you're getting a good used car.