If you're searching a motorcycle , click for additional information from CycleVIN. If you would like further historical information regarding this vehicle , visit VinAudit. If you are researching a boat , visit BoatHistoryReport.
Touhy Ave. If you are law enforcement needing assistance, please call Search Menu. About VINCheck. Look Up a VIN. I agree to the terms and conditions of use. Most importantly, the report tells shoppers if a car has a "branded" title. Branding means an insurance company has declared the vehicle a total loss and given it a salvage title because of an accident, flood damage or other catastrophic event.
The car's vehicle identification number VIN is the key to the vehicle history report. The digit VIN is like the car's Social Security number: It's used to note nearly every major event in a vehicle's lifetime. Typically, the information on a vehicle history report includes a summary and an overall evaluation of the vehicle, supported with details, dates and locations.
How do I get a free Carfax report?
The report makes it easy to see if the car has been registered in numerous states. Other information can include a description of the vehicle, the number of previous owners, accident information, verification of recent mileage which could include an alert for an odometer rollback , and lemon-law and recall checks. For definitive information on recalls for any used car that you're considering, use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's free VIN look-up tool. Several companies sell vehicle history reports, promising to reveal the past of any given vehicle. Keep in mind no report is perfect.
It's only as good as the incidents that have been reported to the database. If, for example, someone gets into a minor accident and decides to repair the car without involving an insurance company for fear of rates going up, the accident will not be reflected in the report. Similarly, if the body shop handling the repairs does not share its data with the vehicle history companies, it will not appear on a report either. So a vehicle could have frame damage and you would not know it by just reading the report.
That said, we still recommend running a vehicle history report before driving across town to see a car in person. Vehicle history reports list salvage titles and other potential problems with used vehicles. The information is a good first step for used-car buyers, but it's critical to have a mechanic inspect the car, too. And if you're shopping for a used car on the private-party market, you'll likely be the one paying for the reports.
But if you're shopping at car dealerships, it's a different story. Most major used-car dealers and some car-selling sites will provide a free Carfax report or AutoCheck report. You can find many of these vehicles on the Edmunds used-car inventory page or on dealership websites.
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If you find yourself on the used-car lot and want to know the history of a particular vehicle, just ask for a report. All dealers have vehicle history report subscriptions, usually for either AutoCheck or Carfax, and will run a free report for interested buyers. 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.
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.
What can I find in the report?
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. 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.
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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. 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.
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Our opinion: Although it doesn't quite have the name recognition of Carfax, AutoCheck is worth a look. 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.
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