ou’ve been kicking the tires on a new car. Well, new to you. It has a few years on its tires already, but everything seems to be in ship shape. The test drive went really well and the car performed exactly as you thought it should. It’s almost time to negotiate a price. But first, you want to make sure there aren’t any issues.
One of the best ways to find out information on a vehicle’s background is with a vehicle history report like VINsmart. All that’s required is the 17-digit VIN, easily found on the driver’s side of the windshield, bottom corner of the dashboard. Dad’s sage advice has always been, “Make sure you have a mechanic look it over.” But is that really necessary if you have a vehicle history report?
In a word: YES! And here’s why.
Why a Vehicle History Report Doesn’t Always Tell the Whole Story
Let’s first look at the benefits of getting a vehicle history report, then we’ll look at an inspection.
Dealership Maintenance Visits
When you view the vehicle history report on a vehicle, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it’s several pages long. What makes it so long, usually, is a lengthy item-by-item list of every visit to the dealership. That includes recalls performed, repairs completed under warranty, and in most cases even oil changes and other routine maintenance. Along with each visit is the date and mileage.
Reported Insurance Claims
Also in the history, you’ll see any insurance claims highlighted. This is an area to pay special attention – a major accident repair could definitely affect the vehicle’s value, and it could indicate an area that’s susceptible to unexpected repairs or corrosion. Virtually any claims reported to the insurer will find their way onto the vehicle history report, even glass repair claims.
Scrolling through a vehicle history report, the vehicle’s mileage tends to be reported more often than anything. It may seem like a strange detail to pay special attention to, but you should. Mileage inconsistencies can identify areas of alarm – maybe the car was in the garage for a month or two for major repairs, or maybe it was parked for a long time while the owner was posted overseas. An idle vehicle tends to develop leaks and mechanical problems.
A huge red flag when shopping for a used car is a rebuilt or salvage title. It’s an indication that something seriously bad has happened to this car. It could’ve been a write-off in a hurricane or fire and been repaired. It may have been stolen and recovered months later with who-knows-what wrong with it. Or, it could be a vehicle involved in a major collision that’s been fixed and put back on the road. In any case, a clean title is the only good title to look for.
With high-level vehicle history report providers, the vehicle’s value is provided. Whether it’s a retail amount or a trade-in value, it’s a great guideline to determine the starting point for negotiations.
So, with all this awesome information from a vehicle history report, why is a vehicle inspection even necessary?
The Value of an Inspection
A vehicle inspection isn’t a replacement for a history report, nor is a VHR the perfect solution all on its own. They’re a team – the Batman and Robin of buying cars. They complement each other and are invaluable as a one-two punch.
A vehicle inspection fills the gaps in a history report.
• With a vehicle history report, only dealership visits for maintenance and repair are reported. If there’s a repair that the customer pays for on their own or at another shop, it isn’t likely to get onto the report. That could mean that shoddy repairs were done and you’d never know. A vehicle inspection can catch mechanical issues.
• While reported insurance claims are listed, anything a car owner doesn’t want on their VHR can be left off if they don’t report it and pay for it themselves. It’s possible for an accident to be repaired poorly or covered up. You’d never know unless you had the car inspected prior to signing the bill of sale.
• A clean title doesn’t always mean a clean car. Again, a car can be severely damaged – even to the point of a write-off – but never reported as a rebuild or salvage if the owner does the repairs themselves or gets a corner shop to do it. Can you imagine the quality of work that’s done?
• A vehicle’s value can be estimated with a vehicle history report according to real-time sales information, but it’s subjective. What if the car you want is in much better shape than average, or it’s much rougher? The value needs to be considered according to the car’s actual condition, and a VHR can’t see it.
Is a vehicle history report important for a vehicle? Absolutely! You shouldn’t purchase a vehicle without first seeing the VINsmart history report. But does it take the place of a vehicle inspection? No, it does not. Your best bet when car shopping is to request a VINsmart vehicle history report, then have the vehicle independently inspected to ensure its condition.