Buying a used car can be a stressful process, partially because it's not necessarily obvious what the vehicle's been through. It's not hard to spot dents, dings and scratches with a cursory look at the vehicle, but a visual inspection doesn't necessarily let you know how good it's been maintained or maybe it's been in an accident.
A vehicle history report is the key to understanding an automobile's condition and can assist you to avoid future headaches.
What Details are Included in a Vehicle History Report?
A vehicle history report provides crucial information you can use to see whether a used vehicle is worth the asking price or maybe it's a wise purchase whatsoever. Here are a few of the more essential details you'll typically find:
- Accident history: Vehicle history report providers gather data from government motor vehicle departments, police force agencies, repair shops and insurance providers to create a list of moving accidents involving the car. This might not include minor fender benders that don't get reported. When the vehicle suffered serious structural damage or airbag deployments, you might want to think about a different car. Even if a car has been deemed roadworthy, the car may never drive like new again, or perhaps be as safe whether it's involved in a major crash.
- Other damage: If the vehicle suffered damage using their company sources, such as a fire, vandalism, flood or hail, you'd likely find it within the history report. In some cases, it might not be an issue. For example, hail and vandalism typically don't cause lasting problems. But if the damage was due to a fire or flood, there might be lingering issues you'd have to deal with should you bought the car.
- Title history: An automobile's title history can tell you a couple of things. First, it'll demonstrate if the car has a salvage title—this happens when a car is totaled within an accident, but someone else comes along and repairs it for resale. Salvage title vehicles might have significant problems that might cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repairs, therefore it is best to avoid them. Second, if you see the car was moved across state lines several times in a short period, it could be a sign that the previous owner was attempting to clear certain negative information in the title.
- Previous owners: The vehicle history report can have how many owners the vehicle has already established. Additionally, you can see where and when it was bought and sold. For example, you can find out if an automobile was utilized as a rental car if this was new. While it's not necessarily a deal-breaker if your vehicle has had many owners or was utilized like a rental vehicle, you may be able to use that information to negotiate around the price.
- Mileage: An automobile's odometer gets reported at certain points in the life, for example when ownership changes. When the current odometer reading shows a lesser quantity of miles than what's been reported in the past, this is a huge warning sign. Rolling back odometers isn't as common as it had been when mechanical dials were the norm, but it's still possible.
- Service history: The best clue you need to a used vehicle's potential longevity is when it was maintained. Not all mechanics report these details, however, many do, and when the vehicle's maintenance information appears on its history report, you can compare it using the schedule recommended by the manufacturer. If you are buying from a private party instead of a dealership, consider asking for their service records to obtain a fuller picture. Whether they can only provide scant proof that the vehicle was regularly maintained, you may want to enlist the help of an auto mechanic to do a check mark.
- Recalls:: Manufacturers issue recalls from time to time once they discover that a factory part isn't working properly or was incorrectly installed. At these times, the manufacturer typically covers the price of fixing the issue. As a vehicle changes ownership, though, it becomes increasingly difficult for manufacturers to contact the current owner. So check the vehicle history report for just about any open recalls that weren't addressed.
How to obtain a Vehicle History Report
In some cases, the seller may buy a vehicle history are accountable to take their prospective buyers comfortable. If they don't offer it themselves, inquire if they've the report and if you can aquire a copy to review it.
If the vendor doesn't provide one, though, there are some places you can check out get a consider the vehicle history report. You will need the automobile identification number (VIN) to request the report. The U.S. Department of Transportation supplies a free database of recalls by VIN, so that you can start there.
You'll should also request a report through Carfax or Autocheck. Both services will explain how many records should be found based on the VIN. But when you want specifics, you will need to pay.
If you're not planning on shopping around for any vehicle, you can buy only one vehicle history report. But if you think you'll want to compare your choices, you can order reports for several vehicles in a discounted rate.
Next Steps After Reviewing the Vehicle History Report
Once you've go through the vehicle history report on a used car, plan to ask a mechanic to carry out a pre-purchase inspection. This typically costs between $100 and $200, according to J.D. Power. That might seem a little steep, however it could save you from purchasing a car that'll set you back much more over time.
You'll also want to go ahead and take vehicle for a test drive to obtain an idea of the way it feels on the highway and to potentially spot certain issues that crop up only if the automobile has been operated.
If you're purchasing from a private party, you may even want to check the National Insurance Crime Bureau to ensure the vehicle was not stolen.
When you are looking at buying a reasonable cost, take your time with the negotiation. It may help to make use of the information found in the vehicle's history report to give yourself some leverage. A spotty maintenance record, accidents or other issues can help you shave some money off the seller's asking price. Pay attention to your gut too. If the seller seems desperate to get rid of it or perhaps is otherwise trying to pressure you into making a decision, maybe it's a warning sign. There really should not be any guilt related to walking away if you don't feel right about the car in question.
Make Sure Your Credit Is prepared for a Car Purchase
If you are planning to finance your automobile purchase, another way to maximize your savings within the life of your vehicle would be to build a a good credit score history. Automotive loans are secured by the vehicle as collateral, so that they tend to charge lower interest rates than, say, personal loans along with other unsecured financing options.
However, poor credit could cause mortgage loan within the double digits—even as high as 20% or even more. A good credit score typically starts at a 670 FICO® Score☉ , but the higher yours is, the greater.
Check your credit rating before you begin the car-buying process. When not in which you would like it to be, take some time to enhance your credit. Depending on how much you improve your score, you could end up saving hundreds or 1000s of dollars within the life of your auto loan.