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Warning Signs to Look for on a Vehicle History Report


Thinking of buying a used car but concerned about what you do not know about the car's history? Step one, then, is to gain access to the car's vehicle history report through services like AutoCheck or Carfax. We always recommend that used car buyers inspect the vehicle's history report before purchase, even though a vehicle history report does not guarantee to list every aspect of the car's history.

High Number of Owners Given the Age of the Car

If you are looking at buying a late-model used car, consider the number of registrations listed on the vehicle history report. If the car is only four years old but has already had three or more owners, that should raise questions as to why. Also, look at where the vehicle was registered each time it changed hands. Did the car stay in the same region of the country or move around a bit? Geographic location can come into play when looking into other warning signs, such as rust issues or water damage.

Water Damage

If any water damage is listed on the used car's vehicle history report, this issue should be taken seriously. Water damage can cause extensive issues with a car's electrical systems -- even if the problems have yet to show up during a test drive.

Salvage Title or Insurance Loss

The phrase "insurance loss" means that the car, SUV or pickup truck was totaled at some point. When a car has this phrase on its vehicle history report but is still on the road, it must have had it title repaired or salvaged. Cars with salvaged titles are harder to resell for obvious reasons, so if you are looking to drive the car for a couple of years and then sell it, you could have a hard time ahead. However, if it is an affordably priced used car that you plan to drive until it has high miles and does not have much resale value anyway, a vehicle with a salvaged title could be bought at a very reasonable price.

Multiple Accident Reports

Even if the collisions that the car was involved in were minor, multiple instances of collisions could add up to a headache for any subsequent owner. From body panels not fitting together properly to front end alignment issues and paint mismatching, there are plenty of reasons to think twice about buying a used car that has taken part in multiple collisions.

Something Doesn't Add Up Here

Lastly, as you scour the used car's vehicle history report, look out for things that contradict what the dealership or private seller has told you about the car. If there are no glaring red flags, but together the history of the vehicle shows a lot of reports and activity for a younger car, you may want to dig deeper.