Many people who are in the market for a car choose to buy a used car instead of making the hefty payments for a brand-new vehicle. There’s definitely some wisdom in saving money when you go this route, that is, if you go about it smartly.

This is where a car’s history report will come in handy. It’s important to get a full background report of the vehicle, failing to do so could end up costing you a great amount of money that you could’ve used towards a new vehicle.

A car history report is a key component in your search for a vehicle and obtaining one can prevent a financial disaster waiting to happen. Some of the more detailed reports like the ones sold by CarFax and AutoCheck will cost a little bit of money to obtain. However, there are several other online sources where you can get some valuable information on the car.

As some of you may know, each car has an identification number. This number is attached to the report, so every time sometime is done, or something happens to the vehicle (i.e. smog tested, record of mileage, accident involvement, etc.), this data is recorded and is pulled together on a single document.

Red flags to look for on the report

Obtaining a car history report will provide the potential buyer with almost everything they need to know about the vehicle, which will allowed him or her to make an informed decision. It’s important to note that the report will not provide current mechanical information about the car. However, it will tell the buyer about past incidents which is good indicator of the current condition of the vehicle.

Below is a list of what’s on a report:


If the vehicle was involved in a serious accident, this information will be reported, including airbag deployment. However, it is possible that the report may include minor accident involvements as well.


This will let potential buyers know if the vehicle was involved in a major accident, fire, or flood. The car might still be drivable, but the insurance company will give the car a “salvage title,” meaning it has been declared a total loss. If the car history report says “totaled,” it’s best to avoid buying that car

Number of owners

It’s important to be aware of frequent changes in ownership. This will tell you whether the car had one owner who had a clean driving record, or if the car changed ownership multiple times for various reasons, this may be a warning.

Money owed

This will let the potential buyer know if a vehicle has a lien on it, or in other terms a loan. Basically, if the car has a lien on it and the buyer takes over ownership, he or she will find themselves responsible for the debt.

Safety recalls

To ensure the vehicle is safe to drive on the roads, a car history report will provide information on any unfixed safety recalls that can potential affect the car, and in some cases making it undriveable.

Past maintenance records

Some car history reports include information about the service visits, this will show the routine maintenance or repairs made to the vehicle in the past.

Buyer Beware

If you’re in the market for a used vehicle, it’s definitely beneficial to obtain a car history report, doing so could save you a lot of money. The best way to obtain one is through a reputable source, although some may charge a small fee. However, it’s important to be aware of sources that offer a “free” car history report as there are a lot of scams on the Internet, so the document you obtain may not be legitimate.