In the market for a used car or truck? E3 Spark Plugs has a few tips for reading and effectively deciphering a vehicle history report. One clue – it’s not just what’s on the report that’s important. What’s missing may be crucial to your car buying decision.
A good, comprehensive vehicle history report combines information from multiple sources, including states DMVs (Division of Motor Vehicles) or RMVs (Registry of Motor Vehicles), fire and police departments, vehicle inspection stations, auto auctions, fleet management and rental agencies, and auto manufacturers. All that info can seem a bit overwhelming. But a few basic tips will help you cut through the ink clutter and make an informed decision.
- Devil’s in the description. The first order of business is to carefully read through the vehicle’s name, description and VIN number to make sure everything lines up. This is one way to protect yourself against buying a VIN cloned ride. Fraudsters often use the vehicle identification numbers from legally owned, non-stolen vehicles to pass off a stolen vehicle of a similar make and model. Go through the description with a fine-toothed comb to make sure the car your reading about is, indeed the car you’re looking at.
- Look for too many trips to the shop. A paper trail showing that a vehicle’s former owner faithfully took it to the garage for recommended scheduled maintenance is one thing. But an excessive number of visits might signal that something’s wonky and that you’ll be paying for lots of repairs.
- Look for too many owners. If a vehicle has been sold, sold and resold many times, there’s probably a reason – and it probably ain’t a good reason. It’s likely that each owner dealt with a few too many repair bills and decided to cut his losses and pass the car along to the next sucker. Don’t be that sucker.
- Remember the old adage, “Location, location, location.” Some regions of the country are a bit more auto-friendly than others. For instance, salt can do a number on a paint job and accelerate rusting, particularly in a car’s undercarriage. So watch for vehicles that have spent lots of time in beach towns or in snowy regions where roads are salted during the winter. Excessive heat also can affect multiple car parts and systems including the coolant system, air conditioning and engine.
- Keep an eye out for what’s not there. If a vehicle’s accident report is clean, yet its body work records show a replaced front bumper, hood and headlights, you might be looking at a car that was crashed and never reported.