When buying a used car, it's important to review the vehicle history report. There's no better way to find out where a car has been and what it's been through. Still, you need to know what you're looking for. Here's how you can use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to avoid buying a lemon.
What is a VIN?
A Vehicle Identification Number is the key to unlocking a used car's past. It's a 17-digit number that is unique to the vehicle itself. Every major life event of the vehicle is contained within this string of digits, including build location, manufacturer and features. VINs can also be used to pull vehicle history reports.
How can you check your vehicle's history?
The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers free government-backed VIN checks. The information is thorough, but limited to the vehicle's present title state, make/model history, mileage reading and loss history.
For a full report, complete with all minor repairs and recalls, you can purchase a vehicle history report from major companies like AutoCheck and Carfax.
What is a salvage title?
If your vehicle history report reveals a salvage title, proceed with caution. Salvage titles are triggered when insurance companies deem a vehicle more costly to repair than it's worth. Usually, this is the result of a major accident, flood or fire. Such vehicles can be very dangerous if not repaired correctly or if the damage is too severe.
In the end, all the reports in the world won't guarantee you'll never have problems with your used vehicle. However, with an inspection and a quick peek into the vehicle's history, you'll have a better idea of what you're purchasing.