Knowing the vehicle history can help you avoid buying a lemon. Get a free vehicle history check today!
Our Vehicle History and Lemon Car FAQ
Basically, a lemon is a vehicle that had so many mechanical problems that the manufacturer bought it back. States have their own lemon laws, so the exact circumstances vary. Try searching online for "lemon law" to get more info or visit www.vehiclepedia.com has some good state-by-state info. A Vehicle History FAQ for lemons and lemon checks
A VIN (short for "Vehicle Identification Number") is a seventeen-digit code that uniquely identifies a vehicle. Every vehicle, truck, motorcycle, trailer, etc. that is built is assigned a VIN and DMVs and insurance companies use the VIN to keep track of which vehicle is which.
The VIN encodes specific information about a vehicle, including country of manufacture, manufacturer, model, body style and even engine and other information. This was standardized in the early '80s and all major manufacturers follow the standard.
A lot of used vehicle websites include a VIN in their for-sale listings. When you're shopping online, find the VIN and cut and paste it into the VIN form. Get the unlimited version of the report so you can screen as many VINs as you need to.
If there's no VIN listed in the newspaper or website ad, contact the seller and ask for it before you go see the vehicle. You could save yourself a lot of time by avoiding problem vehicles.
You can also get the VIN from the vehicle itself. A VIN is visible on the lower right hand (driver's side) corner of the dash when looking through the front windshield. The VIN is also printed on registrations, titles and proof of insurance vehicleds.
A vehicle history report is the quickest and easiest way to research the history of a vehicle. It gathers all of a vehicle's insurance and DMV records into one place. At a glance, you can tell if there are major accidents, odometer problems, flood damage issues or if the vehicle is a lemon.
With this info in hand, you can make an informed purchase decision AND negotiate the best price.
Several companies gather the data and sell these reports online: Consumer Guide, CARFAX and AutoCheck.
A vehicle history report will tell you one of two things about the vehicle's history:
If you're selling...
if you're buying...
VINs were standardized in the early '80s to all be 17 digits long and to use certain codes to indicate make, model, year and other information about the vehicle. Manufacturers were using other types of IDs before that, but the major history databases only include the standardized VINs from 1981-on. You probably won't find many records for most vehicles older than the late eighties, but you should run the VIN check anyway.
It is illegal to tamper with an odometer to change its reading: usually to reduce the number of miles on the vehicle. Unscrupulous dealers have been known to "rollback" an odometer to make a used vehicle more attractive to a buyer.
Buying a vehicle history report can protect you from odometer fraud. With the data in-hand, it's obvious if the mileage suddenly goes down between registrations or annual emissions tests. You can also protect yourself from odometer fraud by having a mechanic inspect the vehicle: they will get a sense of how much wear-and-tear there is on the vehicle, which is more important than raw miles in determining the vehicle's value.
All these sites give you the option of buying multiple reports. At Consumer Guide and Carfax, $5 more gets you as many reports as you need for 60 days. At AutoCheck, you can get 10 reports for $9 more. If you're going to be looking at a lot of vehicles, the multiple report option is the way to go.
If you see a potential trouble area in the report, don't immediately assume the vehicle is not worth buying. If the problem is not serious, you might want to use the information to negotiate a better price on the vehicle. If you're buying from a private seller, you could ask them to explain anything unusual in the report. There may be a reasonable explanation.
Carfax and AutoCheck both claim to have Canadian DMV data. However, you might want to try www.vehicle-history.net. Based on their sample report, it looks like they have access to Canadian provincial motor vehicles data. And they promise not to charge you if they don't find anything for your vehicle. They also will do lien searches at the same time. And the price is comparable to the major US providers once you factor in exchange rate.
At the very least, you should check out reviews on the model you're considering and used vehicle pricing guides to find out what the market price of the vehicle is. Consumer Reports has a lot of this information available in their used vehicle reviews. Other sources online for pricing info are kbb.com and nadaguides.com.
As with any major decision, the more research you do before you make up your mind, the more likely you will be satisfied with your decision.
A VIN history report gives you a detailed history of a vehicle, but it's still up to you to make sure that you make good decisions based on that information. Another option is to buy a Used Car Title Insurance policy. Title Insurance means that you are paying someone a small fee to assume the risk of buying a used vehicle. If something turns out to be wrong with the vehicle's title, you have a way to recoup your investment in that vehicle.
TitleGuard from First American Corporation offers a title insurance policy for $49.95. There is no deductible, no hidden fees and no fine print. It covers you against undisclosed problems with a vehicle's title that could cost you thousands of dollars. Things like: lemon vehicles, flood damage, stolen damage, liens. (Title insurance won't cover mechanical defects if they're not related to a title problem, so be sure you still get any used vehicle checked by a mechanic before you buy.)
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