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. This will give you some assurance that the vehicle has a clean transfer record for the last 5 years, at least.
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Learn more Method 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.
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- 3 Ways to Get a Free VIN Check Before Buying a Used Car.
Free reports typically provide the following generic information:  manufacturer model 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. Understand the contents of a full report.
Investigate a free report from VehicleHistory. Until recently, full VHRs have only been available for purchase.
As of December , however, a source called Vehicle History web address www. 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. 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.
However, this is a relatively new resource, and less has been written about the validity of VehicleHistory. Consumer Reports recommends that buyers consider comparing reports from multiple sources. Method 2. 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. 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. Enter the required information and run the report.
You may also need to provide a zip code, license plate number, or the state in which the car is registered. 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.
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Method 3. 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. 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. 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? A dealer is unlikely to run these reports on a number of vehicles. Assess the dealership's response. If the salesperson willingly runs the VHR for you, thank the salesperson!
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All this information indicates — without even going to physically inspect the car — whether you should buy it. You can buy individual vehicle history reports or a subscription for a limited time, usually the number of weeks it takes to shop for and buy a used car. A free way to get very basic information about a used car is to visit the National Insurance Crime Bureau. If you type in the identification number of the car you want to buy, you will at least be able to see if it has been issued a salvage title or if it was stolen. Another way to get free vehicle history reports is through online classified car ads.
If you are used car shopping in person, either at an independent used car lot or a car dealership, simply ask the salesperson for the vehicle history report. Nearly all dealers have an ongoing subscription to one of the vehicle history report services and should provide the report for free. With so many reporting sources — insurance agencies, vehicle registries, mechanics, etc.
But only some errors are covered, so read the fine print carefully. What you see will help you rule out that car — or move forward with confidence. Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website.