Buying a used car? Get the vehicle's history

When you are buying a used car from an individual, one of the essential steps you must take is researching the vehicle’s history. A good place to start is with the individual who is selling the car. Before you make an offer or even take a test drive, here are some good questions to ask the owner:

  • Did you buy the car new or used?
  • Why do you want to sell the car?
  • Has the car ever had any flood or water damage?
  • Has the car ever been in a major accident?
  • Can I see copies of the repair records? Which repair shop did you use?
  • Has the car passed state inspection?
  • Can I take the car for a test drive?

Getting straightforward answers to these questions can give you a glimpse into the car’s history and alert you to any problems or repairs that may need to be done to make the car safe. And while asking these questions is a great way to start narrowing down your used car search, it can be a wise decision to take researching the car’s history a step further.

Do an in-depth investigation of a used car’s history
First you’ll need to get the vehicle identification number or VIN of the car you are thinking of buying. This 17 digit number is usually located on the car’s important documents, like the title, and on the dashboard.

You’ll then need to go to where you can order a vehicle history report. CARFAX is an online database that gets information from state inspection sites, DMVs, rental car companies and manufacturers. You will need to have your billing information handy, as well as the VIN so you can have all of the necessary information processed. From the information you submit, the CARFAX database will produce information about the car’s:

  • Title
  • Accident history
  • State inspection results
  • Odometer readings
  • Previous owners
  • Repair records

This information can help you determine whether you are comfortable with the risk associated with buying that particular used car. If you have any questions about any of the items you find on the report, ask a mechanic that you trust for help understanding the issue.

CARFAX and are registered trademarks of CARFAX, Inc.

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