The Reasons Why Vehicle History Reports Matter

October 28, 2019 in What Is My Car Worth

A vehicle history report (or VHR) is a collection of all the important details about your car’s past. If you aren’t familiar with VHRs, you should be, and this article will give you all the basics you need to know. 

You know how your social media accounts collect every detail of your life in real time, as they happen? Well, your car’s VHR is kind of like that. It’s a record of everything that happens to your car - from minor daily events like oil changes to major life events like getting bought by a new owner.

VHRs are great because they force sellers to be honest about whether or not their car has had any big problems. But they can also be a problem.

Check Your VHR Before You Trade or Sell

If your car past issues that you don’t know about, you could be in for a big surprise when the time comes to trade it in or sell it to another driver. In this case, your car’s VHR can have a big impact on its trade-in value or selling price. 

If you’re trading, the dealership will definitely check your car’s vehicle history report before they make an offer. They’ll want to know whether or not your vehicle has a “clean” history before they decide how much it’s worth. 

If you’re selling the car to a private party, they may or may not request a copy of the VHR upfront. But as a responsible seller, it’s really in your best interest to obtain a copy and share it with any potential buyers. This keeps all parties on a level playing field and can also help protect you from legal liabilities in some instances. 

What Information Is Included in a Vehicle History Report?

We’ll tell you how to check your vehicle history report later on in this article. But first, let’s take a closer look at what information is typically included in a VHR. 

Accident History

Accident data is collected by law enforcement agencies, motor vehicle departments, insurance companies, and repair shops. If your car has been in an accident, it’s probably in your VHR. 

Accident data can be very general, simply stating that a collision occurred; or it can be very detailed, including all of the damages the vehicle sustained, where the damages were located, and whether or not the airbags were deployed.  

Damage History

In addition to accidents, vehicle history reports can also reveal damage from other sources like hail, fire, floods, and more. 

Fire and flood damage are of particular concern for your vehicle’s trade-in value, since they can often result in safety problems, electrical issues, and other complications down the road that require significant repairs. 

Title History

There are several different “brands” that can be applied to a vehicle’s title depending on how it has been used over its lifetime. 

If a car has been totaled in an accident, its title will be branded as a salvage title. This means an insurance company declared the car a total loss, and then it was later rebuilt and put back on the road and retitled.

Titles can also be branded due to excessive damage by flood, fire, or hail. If your car has been recalled due to lemon laws, it may have a branded title. Some situations that cause excessive wear and tear, such as being registered as a taxi or police vehicle, can also result in a branded title. 

Sales and Ownership Information

The sales and ownership history of a vehicle show the very first time it was purchased after it was manufactured, followed by every transaction where it has been bought or sold for the rest of its lifetime. 

Cars with only one owner tend to bring higher sales prices and trade-in values than cars with many past owners. In some cases, cars have been frequently bought, sold, and retitled in different states in an attempt to hide negative data from vehicle history reports. 

Mileage Data

Over the course of its lifetime, a car’s mileage (or odometer reading) is documented at several different times. Mileage is recorded during state inspections, state registrations, some service appointments, and anytime the car changes hands to a new owner. 

Obviously, it’s a major red flag if a car’s current mileage is lower than the mileage listed on its vehicle history report. An illegal tactic called “rolling back” the odometer is sometimes used by scammers who want to reduce a vehicle’s mileage in order to get a higher price. 

Service Records

Not all mechanics keep track of every routine maintenance they perform on a specific vehicle, but many do. A vehicle history report can reveal when and where a vehicle has been serviced, which is helpful to potential buyers because it shows how the car has been maintained over the course of its life. A vehicle with a documented routine maintenance history can bring a higher trade-in value and a higher sale price. 

Vehicle Inspection Details

Most state DMV agencies require vehicles to periodically pass certain inspections and tests in order to maintain a current registration. Common tests include safety regulations and emissions standards. Inspection history can be very important to a vehicle’s history, and it is typically included in the VHR. 

Recall Notices and Repairs

It’s not uncommon for vehicles to be recalled due to safety and performance issues. A VHR will show whether or not the particular vehicle has been involved in any recalls, and if so, whether or not the required repairs have been made to resolve the underlying issue.      

How to Check Your Vehicle History Report

The easiest way to check your vehicle history report is to use an online service. AutoCheck and Carfax are two popular sources, and there are many other competitors in the marketplace. 

To request your VHR, you will need to enter your vehicle identification number (or VIN). Your car’s VIN is a unique identifier that consists of a string of characters and numbers. You can find your VIN in several places including your registration paperwork, your lien paperwork, or right on your car. 

Your VIN can often be found on the driver’s side dashboard - where the dash meets the windshield - or on the driver’s side door post, near where your door latches when it closes. 

Checking your vehicle history report is an important part of determining your car’s value. You can also submit your car to The Appraisal Lane to get a guaranteed cash offer in 30 minutes. We have a live team of appraisers standing buy, and you can redeem our offer for cash or trade-in value at a dealership near you.