When I was an Internet Manager for a major car dealer, I compiled a list of the most common mistakes my customers made when buying used cars. Making any one of these mistakes can create unnecessary stress and bother. Worse, it can cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars more than necessary.
Number two on my list was not checking the vehicle history report. In the car business, this is a rookie mistake. These reports have become an industry standard and are now accessible to the general public online. The two primary sources are AutoCheck.com and CARFAX.com.
A vehicle history report provides specific details about the vehicle’s past that every prospective purchaser should know. This includes:
- If it was ever in an accident or had a salvage title.
- If was damaged by Katrina, Ike, or another natural disaster.
- If it was a lemon buyback.
- If its mileage was falsified by rolling back the odometer.
- How many owners it has had (a 1-owner vehicle generally has more value).
- In which city and state the vehicle has been registered, serviced, and sold.
From the Frontline
Many of my previous customers insisted that they would only buy local cars, or those from their state. They didn’t want to take the chance of inheriting someone else’s problems. For example, if a car has spent time on the east coast or in other snow country, undercarriage rust may be an issue. This is a concern for those who live in milder climates. A vehicle history report allows you to monitor where a car has been.
Any reputable dealer will provide a free vehicle history report. If a dealer refuses to show you one, I recommend leaving immediately and finding a dealer who wants to earn your business.
If purchasing from a private seller, you can always ask them to provide one for you. That’s a good faith gesture to prove that the car has a clean history.
Don’t Leave Home Without It
A vehicle history report is a basic, inexpensive tool that every used car buyer should use, every time. Don’t make the rookie mistake of buying a used car without one.
L. James Johnson's new book, HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online! is available for download at BayAreaCarGuy.com. You can also download his FREE report, The 8 Biggest Mistakes Used Car Buyers Make & How to Avoid Them!