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What’s a VIN Number and What it Can Tell You 

Vehicle History Report, also known as VIN report, is an essential step for anyone who is purchasing a car. Think of the VIN report as a window to the car’s history. It tells you all about its past and what it has been through. In addition, it provides you with a plethora of information regarding the health and condition of the car that you are about to purchase. When making an informed decision on whether to buy a car and how much to pay for it, a VIN report is a lifesaver. Sometimes, the same report may also be denoted as a Carfax report. However, Carfax is one of the many providers alongside Auto Check, BADVIN, and others.

What information does a VIN report generally provide?

You will most typically find reports detailing things like accident history, car ownership, mileage, title status, and more. However, to get started with the VIN report, you need to have the car’s identification number to begin with. That very thing is known as VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).

The VIN is also like a vehicle’s footprint, as no two VINs are the same. Usually, it will comprise 17 characters (digits and capital letters both) which act as a unique identifier for a specific vehicle.

What If the VIN isn’t 17 characters?

First, make sure you have the correct VIN and that you have noted it down correctly. It’s an easy mistake to make, and once you have appropriately double-checked it and verified that it is indeed less than 17 characters, then the VIN is very likely from a vehicle that was made before 1981.

VIN used to vary in length before 1981 (anywhere from 11 to 174 characters). A VIN checker like AutoCheck can only create reports on vehicles that have 17 characters on its VIN.

Where Do I Find the VIN on my vehicle?

Typically, VINs can be found near the dashboard on the driver’s side. Stand outside the car and stand on the driver’s side and view the corner of the dashboard where it connects to the windshield. This is the easiest way to find the Vehicle Identification Number. If you cannot find the VIN, try to open the driver’s side door and look around the doorpost where the door latches when it is closed.

Vehicle History Report and how to Obtain One

It is common to find dealers that offer free Carfax reports for the cars that you purchase. For example, say you want to buy a VNS report provider like Carfax, BADVIN or, AutoCheck, you will be expected to pay anywhere from 30$ to 40$. However, most of them provide discounts if you want to check reports for multiple vehicles. In addition, many VIN report providers offer more or less information at different price points for competitiveness.

Even sellers of used cars can benefit from having a vehicle history report for their vehicle and providing it to their potential buyers. It does two things, it saves the buyer money, but it also comes as a sign of good faith. To get the VIN report, you have to fill out a form (typically done online) with the VIN, usually found in the lower corner of the windshield that’s on the driver’s side.

More on what A VIN can inform you about

Volumes of useful information are provided through a VIN report. Some details can help you confirm either good or bad news about the vehicle that you are considering buying. Negative information from a VIN can actually come to your advantage from time to time as you can then negotiate for a better price.

Has the vehicle suffered any damage?

A vehicle may be damaged in various ways other than just collisions. VIN reports show other types of damages like fire damage, hail, and flood damage. You should steer clear of flood or fire-damaged cars. The reason being, both flood and fire damage can actually cost you extra money while compromising the safety of vehicles. VIN checks from the NICB can also inform you if a car has been reported stolen.  You must avoid this kind of deal as you can be the one who ends up behind bars. For a stolen car that changed its status to recovered, take a look at the time frame when. If the time frame between the status is too big, like a couple of months to a year, then it’s probably an abandoned vehicle. These kinds of vehicles come with high uncertainty rates.

The Title History

The title information of a vehicle can tell you volumes about the car’s history. Suppose you see a car with a title history spanning different states (usually several) over a relatively short period of time. it is a generally good indication that the vehicle’s previous owner attempted to wash negative from the car title. Branded titles also matter as they may indicate several issues with a vehicle like how it was used. A salvage title on the other hand, means that an auto insurance company has already determined that the car in question is a total loss to repair. However, someone still attempted repairs on the car to return it to the road. Also, if and when an automobile is re-titled, it is branded with the “salvage” title. Therefore, it’s good to steer clear of salvage titles.

The Odometer Rollback

During the lifespan of an automobile, its odometer will be recorded. These points can be when there are changes in ownership, registrations, significant services, or vehicle inspections. This can either confirm or put into question the odometer’s reading that you can see in a dashboard of a vehicle. If the numbers found on the dashboard are somehow lower than the number you found on the history report, then it’s a big red flag for anyone considering purchasing a pre-owned car. Consider walking away from the deal unless the seller has a very compelling explanation.

The odometer rollback used to be a standard (also highly illegal) scam in the second-hand market; however, it’s harder to pull off an odometer rollback without getting caught through modern technology.

About Ambika Taylor

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