When we go out there looking for a used car, typically, the best bargains are the really old cars that have been driven very little. If you could find, say, a ’95 Camry that’s only been through 25,000 miles for instance, you get a quality car cheap that has a lot of life left in it. So what do you do when you find such car – trip over your feet are running in to get a checkbook? Not likely. Not until you take a look at the car’s vehicle history report.
The thing is, great deals in used cars, while they certainly can happen, are not common. Life isn’t usually that helpful. You have to suspect all kinds of things when such a car comes to your attention. You want to know if there’s something wrong with the car that they’re hiding. You want to know who drove it before this, and if there is any serious chronic damage or other problem that isn’t apparent on the surface.
It hasn’t been for very long that the system has been able to keep track of eery car in the country. These days, thanks to computer record keeping, the vehicle identification number or VIN of every car is a matter of public record. A check with the car’s vehicle history report with its number is quite easy.
All you need to do is to go to one of dozens of online companies with names like Carfax, supply them with the number you’re interested in, and look something up. If the car you’re looking at is less than 30 years old, you’ll find it on Carfax. You can have as many Carfax Safety and Reliability Reports as you want for $40 a month.
There are other companies you can try, too. Consumer Guide has a very popular service. They give you your vehicle history report, and another report that tells you where to look for trouble spots in the car model.
There are a number of things you can gain some insight into with a vehicle history report. You’ll be able to check if the mileage shown on the odometer makes any sense. The report will show what the mileage was at different times during the car’s life. If anyone’s been rolling back the odometer, you’ll know.
Inconsistencies here don’t directly show that the seller is lying to you. Sometimes, he could have been lied to himself. It’s possible that at some point in the car’s life, it was part of a leasing agreement. And it’s possible that that owner, to make sure that he didn’t overrun the leasing mileage limit, did a little rollback. Whatever it is, if you discover an inconsistency here, you can knock something off the price.