Many car dealers are showing prospective buyers a VIN history report before they make a purchase. If your dealership does not offer this service or you are buying from an independent seller, you should consider securing one for yourself to avoid problems.
When major weather events happen across the nation, it is not uncommon for damaged cars to end up on a car lot in another state. The most common weather-related problem is flash floods. Once the car becomes flooded, it is unusable. Without knowing the vehicle was reported damaged by flooding, it might look perfectly fine on the outside but have considerable rust underneath and inside mechanical components. A VIN history report may reveal this information and prevent you from purchasing the car.
In order for this information to appear on the report, the vehicle must have been reported to an insurance company as damaged or a total loss. Instead of the car ending up in the junkyard, someone fixed any obvious cosmetic problems with the car and enough of the mechanical issues so it will run for a little while. If you know any person or dealership who is selling these cars, they can be reported to the authorities.
You want to make sure the VIN matches the make, model, and color of the car you are buying and the car is not reported stolen. Car thieves can easily try to disguise a stolen car and may sell the car on websites to unsuspecting buyers. Without thorough research, you will not realize there is a problem until you try to register your car with the DMV or if you happen to be pulled over by the police for a minor traffic infraction before the car is registered. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to convince the police you were not intentionally in possession of a stolen vehicle and the seller may be impossible to locate.
You want to buy a used car based on accurate information about its repair needs and how many miles are on the car. With a VIN history report, you can make sure the information you are told matches the history of the car. Odometer fraud is a common type of false advertisement. Since car buyers typically want to avoid used cars with many miles and excessive mileage can lower the resell value of a car, a dishonest seller may manipulate the odometer to shave off thousands of miles or replace the odometer entirely without noting the change.
Researching the VIN can give you an idea of inconsistencies between what the report says and what the seller is saying. For example, if the VIN report shows the current owner purchased the car with 100,000 miles on it and the owner claims to have driven the car regularly for the past few years, but the car has 102,000 miles, something is likely wrong.
Recalls are not uncommon for minor or significant problems with vehicles. If you are in the market for a used car, recalls can be more of a problem. A car may have had a recall decades ago and was never repaired, but now exists for sale. Doing research on the VIN number can give you an indication if there were any recalls and the gravity of the problem. If it is a minor problem, you may still wish to purchase the car and might bargain for a lower price since you will need to make a minor repair. No matter how old a car is, you should consider recalls when doing your research since not all recalls are widely known.
The availability of VIN databases can make you feel more secure when you purchase a used car, especially from independent car lots or private sellers. Spending time researching the cars that interest you can save you headaches later.