by Christopher Boyle
LONG ISLAND, NY – When it comes to purchasing an automobile it always pays to remember that this will be, aside from a house or some random luxury item, the most expensive thing you will own. So, when you’re shopping for a new car, it not only pays to do your homework, but also to know what to look for when you finally see a vehicle in-person. And this goes double if you’re for a used car; there are a great many high-quality pre-owned vehicles out there on the market, but even some run-of-the-mill wear-and-tear – if left unattended – can cost you big-time in repair bills down the road if you’re not careful. After all, the whole point of buying pre-owned is to save some money, right? Well, getting stuck with a lemon will almost certainly achieve the exact opposite of that, so this article will go over some vital tips for anyone shopping for a new – or new to them, at least – vehicle.
The first step to take whenever a prospective vehicular purchase catches your eye is to get your hands on a copy of its Vehicle History Report (VHR). Companies such as AutoCheck and CarFax are established and trusted services that aggregate VHRs into a comprehensive report on the history of your potential car. They compile information based on a given vehicle’s vehicle identification number (VIN), which often gives the most comprehensive story on pretty much anything that’s ever happened to the vehicle they’re assigned to, aside from the occasional unreported damage. VHRs gather additional data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and auto body and repair shops.
When all of this information is gathered into a single report, a VHR can bring the hazy past of any given automobile into crystal-clear focus. You can learn if a vehicle has been routinely serviced, been in an accident, been damaged via harsh weather-related conditions such as a flood, been stolen, or has been the subject of a recall by the manufacturer for any given reason. In addition, a VHR can show if a vehicle’s title has any liens outstanding or if it has been totaled in an accident and then unscrupulously fixed up enough that it would pass muster to the casual buyer…only for them to discover down the road the mechanical mess they unwittingly purchased.
Another useful aspect of VHRs is their ability to track the number of times a vehicle has been sold, which is important to know; after all, if a car is reliable and in good condition, why would it keep passing through owners so often? Multiple owners is never a good sign, and likely signifies that the car you’re interested in has enough wrong with it that a long line of owners before you couldn’t wait to get rid of it.
Needless to say, subscribing to services such as CarFax or AutoCheck can be invaluable, even when you consider the fact that most of these services typically charge a nominal monthly fee, and most reputable used car dealerships will be subscribers as well so they can offer customers a copy of the VHR of the car they’re interested in. But regardless of how you obtain it – either through a dealer or your own devices – thoroughly examining the VHS of a used car you’re interested in is a vital part of the shopping process, and one you should never neglect.
So, with that out of the way, which VHR service is the best? Well, that can be quite subjective, and it depends a great deal on what you’re looking for out of any given report. CarFax is the most well-known service, and while pricier than most, it’s also considered the best one around due to how in-depth it is, combined with a high degree of user-friendliness. In fact, when you see a used car dealership offering Vehicle History Reports to their customers, more often than not it’s from CarFax.
Experian-owned AutoCheck is another well-regarded report, although it’s been criticized by some for a confusing numerical grading system that compares the vehicle in question to other cars similar makes and models that were produced during the same year, as opposed to just a general grade based on the car’s well-being. However, it’s still fairly comprehensive and less expensive than CarFax, albeit not quite as well-regarded.
National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is a service run by the Department of Justice, and is available to all, and all organizations involved in used car dealings – be the dealerships, insurance companies, or junkyards – are required by law to annually submit reports. The info you’ll get from a NMVTIS report won’t be nearly as detailed or as in-depth as one from either CarFax or AutoCheck – they’re mostly only good for basic registration and title information – but they are also far less expensive than either of the aforementioned services.
So, when it comes to purchasing a used car, remember that the single most important thing you can do when it comes to avoiding a lemon – and all of the financial cost and headache that comes along with it – is to get your hands on a Vehicle History Report and make sure you don’t sign on the dotted line with the seller until you’ve read each and every word on that report. If you don’t…you may very well regret it when you’re left stranded somewhere by the expensive, useless heap of a car you just threw your money away on.