Time and time again used car buyers increasingly depend on the vehicle history report to make sure that the car they are buying was not involve in any car accident, stolen or involve din an other calamities. Many dealerships give free history reports to consumers. Those reports provide useful information, but it’s what they can miss that should worry you.
What to do
Have the vehicle inspected
Just because a report is clean, it doesn’t mean that the vehicle has no problems. Some dealers who have provided “clean” reports are using them in court as a defense against charges that they knew a vehicle was a former wreck when they sold it. We also know cases of dealers altering reports that showed problems. So before buying a used car, take it to an independent mechanic to have it checked for any evidence of damage.
Don’t skip the test drive
Make note of unusual squeaks or rattles. If a car pulls to one side or tracks poorly, then that might hint at previous damage. Check the backs of body panels and doorjambs for paint overspray, a signal that the car might have had bodywork. The smell of mildew or mold could indicate water damage.
Check the title
Always inspect the title document. Look for any “brands” indicating that the vehicle had been wrecked, repurchased or had any other problem. Verify the odometer statement against the reading in the vehicle.
Ask the seller for a history report
If the report isn’t recent or you suspect that it has missing or fabricated information, verify it with the service. Some dealer Web sites have free links to reports directly from the services.
Read the disclosures
The reporting companies have many disclosures explaining the limits of the information and any guarantees they’re providing.
One report might be clean but another might not be. If you are not provided with a report from the seller, check with the free or inexpensive services first. Along with total-loss information, they might provide warnings about odometer tampering and non-total loss collisions.