The Key To Buying A Good Used Car: Vehicle History Reports

Sure, that used car you want to buy looks great, but what’s under that shiny coat of wax? Thanks to new automotive technology, car accidents and major problems can be easily covered up, but a vehicle history report will often tell you the real story – before you buy a used auto.

Researching a used car won’t take more than a few minutes of your time, but it can save you thousands of dollars, headaches and bad used car experiences. All you need to access this critical information is the automobile’s VIN and a website like Carfax or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A vehicle history report is a complete biography of the car and includes everything from odometer fraud to the number of past owners and accidents. Once the report is in your hands, pay close attention to these 10 common used car problems:

Ownership History
The nature of a vehicle’s job or its ownership conditions will significantly influence how the vehicle was treated. For example, if the vehicle has been leased, the lessee may not have treated the vehicle with much respect. A rental vehicle ages quickly because it is driven by many people who don’t own the car and perhaps don’t care about it. A taxi or police car is driven like few other vehicles; if you see one of these for sale, walk the other way. Fleet vehicles owned by a company are probably driven like company property, though they may be subject to a regular maintenance schedule.

If the number of vehicle owners is high relative to the auto’s age, that could be a red flag. The service records on a vehicle will make it clear what has been done to the vehicle and will tell you if there has been a recurring problem.

Salvage Vehicles
If the cost of repairing the car after it is involved in an accident, flood, or stolen exceeds the value of the vehicle, then it is sold to a salvage company. The majority of these vehicles are cannibalized for their parts. However, some are picked up by body shops that might do a substandard repair job and then sell the car under its salvage title. Although you may get a good deal and the car might give you no problems, you’re taking a chance on that the vehicle should have stayed on the salvage heap. If it has been repaired well, be aware that it will be difficult to recover your investment, because its salvage title will make it hard to sell.

Lemon Vehicles
Lemon laws are expanding across the United States to protect consumers from bad cars. Most lemons are bought back by the manufacturer, but they may eventually find their way to a used car lot.

Flood Damage
Although flood damage may not be serious enough to warrant salvage, you should know if a vehicle has been water logged. This may interfere with proper functioning, now or down the road.

A Rebuilt Or Reconstructed Title
This indicates that the vehicle was badly damaged and rebuilt or reconstructed. Salvage auction records will indicate when a vehicle categorized as “totaled” by an insurance company is sold at auction to be reconstructed and put back on the road. The rebuild may or may not have been done well – watch out.

Odometer Fraud
The rollback of an odometer is a “white lie” that definitely misrepresents the condition of a vehicle and could end up costing you money. Odometer rollovers are fairly obvious. By using the ballpark figure of 15,000 miles traveled per year, you can roughly estimate when rollover should occur. Any significant difference from that figure should ring alarm bells.

Accident Report
A major accident that damages a vehicle significantly but not enough to place it on the salvage pile is a car to stay away from. Both your safety and the resale value of the car are affected.

Fire Damage
A fire can also affect the overall safety and value of a vehicle, even if the damage wasn’t quite enough to send the car to the salvage heap.

Stolen Vehicles
If a vehicle has been stolen, the potential for damage is fairly high; this part of the vehicle’s history can save you from buying a car with problems that may not be obvious – yet.

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