Understanding Car History Reports

If you are planning on buying a used car or selling your car, then you might have heard of something called a free car history report. You might have even looked at one or two in the past, depending on how you bought your car. Chances are that you have seen a commercial or heard someone tell you about just how important car history reports are, but why is that? To help you maneuver a little better through the world of used cars, here is an introduction to the subject:

What is a car history report?

A car history reports a large amount of data that is connected to a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). A VIN is something like a Social Security number for cars, in that every car has a unique one. It is important to note that a VIN is not the same thing as a license plate number. VIN numbers are usually 17 digits long, and can include any number or letter that is not i, o, or q.

So what is actually on a car history report?

First of all, ownership history is usually listed on a car history report. You should be able to find every owner that the car has had in the last several decades. 

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the car history report will list a variety of information about severe damage that the car experienced in the past. If it was written off as a total loss by an insurance company or classified for salvage at some point in the past, then you want to be extremely careful about making a purchase. The car might have a lot of internal, hard to find problems that could cost you a huge amount of money in the future.

Third, some important general maintenance data should be shown, such as mileage, emission inspections, warranty, and lemon status. A lemon is a car that has extremely severe problems that prevent it from operating as an effective car. However, in order to be a lemon, these problems must also be incredibly hard to detect prior to purchase. Therefore, a lemon is essentially a bait and switch for the buyer of the car.

By understanding the history of your car, you can drastically reduce the amount of money that you will have to spend on maintenance in the future. A car with a pristine car history report is likely to be much less stressful for you than a car that has a long and storied history of problems.