When purchasing a used vehicle it is important to know where the vehicle has previously been titled, if it’s ever been in an accident, and if any important repairs have been made. To do this you will need to obtain a vehicle history report. This article will answer the following frequently asked questions:
- What is a vehicle history report?
- How can I get a free vehicle history report?
- What’s the difference between CarFax, AutoCheck, and other providers?
- What is NMVTIS?
- Which vehicle history report is the most accurate?
What is a Vehicle History Report?
A vehicle history report is the story of the vehicle. To obtain a Vehicle History Report you will need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is the equivalent of a social security number, but for a vehicle. This 17-digit alphanumeric unique code details the story of a motor vehicle ranging from being damaged to being stolen and then recovered.
Where to find your VIN number
VINs typically reside in the locations listed below. If your VIN is not in any of the locations listed below, check online with your manufacturer for your specific make and model.
- Driver’s side dashboard
- Driver’s side doorjamb
- Vehicle registration
- Vehicle title
- Insurance papers
- The engine block (typically the front)
Important note before looking at a vehicle history report:
Any damage not reported to an insurance company or authorities will not appear on vehicle history reports since the information in the system will not get updated. It’s key to be aware of this when looking at a car listing in the United States for used cars, especially if you cannot look at the car in-person.
How can I get a Free Vehicle History Report?
You can get a free vehicle history report in a few different ways listed below:
- Use a VIN lookup tool (see sites with links in the paragraph below under “Free History Report”)
- All Cars on CarFax (more information in the next section)
- Most used car dealerships will have them if you ask
What’s the difference between Carfax, Autocheck, and the Free History report options?
When looking for vehicle history reports there are a few options to consider that will be available to help you decide which used vehicle is correct for you.
Starting in the 1980s, CarFax began by faxing vehicle history reports to its customers. Its reputation comes with a hefty price tag for users. That being said, it is the most detailed and user friendly of car history reports. The information is presented in a manner that makes it easy to understand to any reader and provides valuable information on previous owners, past accidents, repairs, and specs. For those who are fully into the car buying experience and seriously considering purchasing a certain used vehicle, CarFax is a good choice. It should be noted that the report will only show maintenance dates and records if they took place at a repair shop.
1 report = $39.99
3 reports = $59.99
Provides a vehicle “score” with a vehicle number on a scale of 1 to 100 to show how the vehicle compares to other similar cars built in the same year. One of the biggest pros for AutoCheck is the fact that if you are looking at multiple cars, it provides a quick reference at a cheaper price than its competitors. The information on the AutoCheck report may not be as detailed as say, CarFax, but it tells you a general outline and enough to gauge your options.
1 report = $24.99
25 reports in 21 days = $49.99
300 reports in 21 days = $99.99
Free History Report
These are generally less detailed than the two sources above. The benefits are that some information can still be found out for free and can be a good baseline or starting point when looking at used vehicles. A free history report will pull up any major red flags about the vehicle that have been reported, but will likely skip out on the transfer of titles, the history of accidents, and any repairs made. Simply use your VIN and one of the free VIN check sites and you will have the information in seconds.
- Vehicle History
- The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
How can I get Carfax for Free (tricks and tips)?
If you’re looking to get a free CarFax report, there are a few places to check. Of the sites below, CarFax is the only one where all of the vehicles will have a report included with the used car posted for sale. The other two sources will generally have free reports included, but sometimes they do not. Dealerships also typically use CarFax, so if you are purchasing a car from a car dealership, ask them for the CarFax and they will give it to you for free.
Sites with free CarFax Vehicle History Reports:
What is NMVTIS and how is it different?
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is only available from state motor vehicle registries that choose to participate. There are currently 45 out of 50 states providing data and inquiring into the system before issuing new titles when requested. Titles are run through an instant title verification check before issuing a certificate of title for a vehicle that is being brought into the state. The purpose of these verification checks is to validate the document and determine if the vehicle has been stolen or salvaged previously. The program is run by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and is the only one available to the U.S. public with regular updates required by law from auto insurance companies, junkyards, and auto recyclers.
An NMVTIS report is shorter than the other previously mentioned vehicle history reports and includes the five main points listed below. The goal of the history report is to indicate to the buyer if the vehicle is safe to purchase, not stolen, and free of fraud.
The list of approved NMVTIS data providers can be found here.
What’s Included in the NMVTIS Report:
- Current state Title and last title date
- Brand history
- Descriptive labels indicating the status of the motor vehicle (“junk”, “salvage title”, “flood damage”) to inform the buyer of the condition of the vehicle
- Odometer Reading
- Total Loss History
- Salvage History
Cost: range from $8 to $12.99 per report
Which report is most accurate?
There is not one report company or service that is always going to provide users with a 100% accurate vehicle history reports. This is due to the fact that the accuracy of the information in these reports is highly dependent on authorities or repair companies reporting the information and then updating it. If information is not disclosed, the vehicle could seem fine on the report, when it’s actually in dire need of repair. It is advised to take each report with a grain of salt and have the vehicle inspected yourself to get an accurate report of the current state of it.
Refinance with WithClutch
Now that you’ve just purchased a new used motor vehicle after examining the vehicle history report, it’s time to make sure your finances are in order. If you need help refinancing your auto loan, WithClutch can help! All it takes is 20 seconds to lower your monthly payments and can be done from the comfort of your home or while you’re on the go. It doesn’t matter if you drive a BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Mustang, Jaguar, Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Corvette, Volkswagen, Dodge, Honda, or Land Rover, we can help you!