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Vehicle History Reports, VIN Check & VIN Inspection

What is the VIN?

Vehicle history report providers pull their reports by using the VIN on your vehicle, which stands for Vehicle Identification Number. The VIN is the unique 17-digit number given to your vehicle by the manufacturer. Every vehicle has a different VIN. The VIN is akin to a social security number for your vehicle. In 1981, the auto industry standardized VINs with a 17-digit combination of letters and numbers. Many of the letters and numbers are assigned meaning, like country of origin, manufacturer name and year of production. The manufacturer must use the numbers in accordance with the law. Part of the number is for the manufacturer to code internally. Starting in 1954, VINs were used by American car manufacturers, but they varied according to the automaker. If you have a vehicle manufactured prior to 1981, you may not be able to purchase a vehicle history report.

Where to find the VIN?

You can find your VIN attached to your car in a few places, such as the engine, a metal plate under the driver’s side windshield and the driver’s side door. Today VINs can be used to find vehicle records including ownership, accidents, repairs and maintenance.

CARFAX and AutoCheck

You’ve probably already heard about the car fox at CARFAX. You may think the company is called Car Fox, but it’s actually CARFAX, and you can find them at carfax.com. Their reports are the industry standard, and they start at $39.99 for 1 report, $49.99 for 5 reports and $54.99 for unlimited reports on US plates. To diminish your fears of purchasing a lemon, Buy Here Pay Here dealers may offer a free CARFAX, AutoCheck or another company’s vehicle history report with your vehicle purchase. AutoCheck is a subsidiary of Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus. AutoCheck charges $29.99 for one report and $44.99 for unlimited reports for 30 days. The 30-day option is the best choice if you’re unsure about which vehicle you’d like to purchase and you want to check numerous VINs. BHPH dealers often list their inventory online with VIN numbers. Without even calling the dealership, you can check an unlimited number of vehicle history reports.

What’s on the Vehicle History Report?

When buying a car, you’re at a disadvantage since you do not know the mechanical condition of the vehicle. Dealers have access to trusted, experienced mechanics who can easily evaluate the mechanical condition of their used car fleet. As a buyer, how do you know if you’re getting duped by the seller? This is where the vehicle history report comes into play. VIN reporting providers take the vehicle’s VIN and run the report. The report reveals flood damage, lemon history, salvage or junk information from titles, title records from each state, DMV reported odometer issues, accidents, number of owners, auction history, air bag deployment, service records, state emission inspection results, insurance total loss, frame damage, etc.

What’s Missing From the Vehicle History Report?

The report is not entirely comprehensive. It is a strong indicator of the vehicle’s history and it’s current value. If an accident did not make it onto a police report, the report may not indicate that the accident ever occurred. All negative history records may not appear on the report. However, by reviewing the auto, truck, SUV, motorcycle or recreational vehicle history reports, you’ll be better informed about the vehicle you are purchasing.

Where Else to Get a Vehicle History Report?

Another option for accessing a vehicle history report is the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which offers public access to their federal database through selected private businesses. Federal law has mandated that insurance carriers, state motor vehicle titling agencies, junk yards and auto recyclers report to this government agency. As a consumer, you can get a vehicle history report from them that will report junk or salvaged titles, title issues, odometer checks and accidents.

What’s a VIN Check?

The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a fraud protection VINCheck for free to the public to determine if you’re vehicle has a salvage title or has been reported stolen. You can get five free VIN checks in a 24-hour timeframe.

What’s a VIN Inspection?

When you go to register your vehicle, your state's DMV office may ask for a VIN inspection to verify that the VIN on your vehicle matches the VIN on your title or ownership documents. It’s a good idea for you to double-check the VIN number on the vehicle against the VIN on your documents prior to paying for your vehicle. Otherwise, the vehicle history report that you purchased may be for the wrong vehicle!

Guest post by Rian Taylor, BHPH marketing expert at DRIVE 1 AGAIN Used Cars in the Denver, Colorado metro area. Follow her on Google+