- Vehicle history report
A vehicle history report in the US contains important information about a used vehicle’s past. These reports generally show title records from each state DMV, along with salvage and insurance total loss records and accident records (1, 2, 7). This information is vital for consumers when choosing which used vehicle to purchase, as it can indicate issues with the vehicle’s safety and value. Additional information in a vehicle history report are ownership changes, and vehicle details decoded from the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) such as year, make, model, and odometer history.
Vehicle history reports are typically available online from several sources, including instaVIN.com, autocheck.com and carfax.com. Vehicle history reports are available for automobiles including light trucks and SUVs, motorcycles, recreational vehicles (RVs) and pre-1981 classic cars (1, 2, 7).
Vehicle history reports
Before purchasing a used vehicle, potential buyers often consider the purchase of vehicle history and title reports and salvage check reports to understand a vehicle’s background history. Users are generally interested in whether a vehicle that is being considered for purchase has been in a severe accident, had its odometer rolled back or has lemon history. Sellers of vehicles also check the history of their vehicle prior to listing for sale so they are prepared to answer questions to the condition of the vehicle or history events. Dealers often buy these reports that provide a detailed background on the used vehicle to show their customers. Dealers also run reports prior to acquiring vehicles at auction or from trade-ins to help insure they pay a fair market value. Vehicle prices may be adjusted due to history events on any particular vehicle.
A vehicle history report provides information and often detailed records associated with a vehicle’s unique serial number or VIN.
Items that can be included in a vehicle history and title report 
Item Description Title information Shows if the vehicle has been reported to have been issued a negative title “brand” like salvage or junk that often come with severe accidents Number of titles Shows the reported ownership history and the possible ownership changes States of title Provides the states that the vehicle has been reported titled or registered in previously Salvage or junk information from titles or other sources Shows if the vehicle has been reported as a salvage vehicle by a state or has been reported at auction or junk yard DMV-reported odometer problems Shows when the vehicle has been reported to having had its odometer rolled back or broken Lemon history Shows if the vehicle has a been reported as a lemon Insurance total loss information Shows if the vehicle has been reported as a total loss by an insurance company Auction history Lets the buyer know if it has been reported at an auto auction Accident history Shows if the vehicle has been in a reported accident or has sustained damage Air bag deployment Shows whether or not the vehicle’s airbag has been reported as deployed Mileage readings Lists the odometer readings that have been reported for the vehicle Service records Shows any reported service information State emission inspection results Shows the results of a state inspection or emission results as reported by the state Warranty or service contract availability Shows whether or not the vehicle has been covered by warranty or service contract
A Salvage and VIN Check Report is an abbreviated version of a Vehicle History and Title Report, which helps consumers understand the severity reported damage associated with a vehicle. It identifies the reported title brands such as salvage or junk, or whether the vehicle has been reported a total loss by an insurance company. These reports can be obtained for passenger cars and light trucks, as well as motorcycles, RVs, heavy trucks and classic cars.
Vehicle History and Title Report data is gathered from multiple sources including State Departments of Motor Vehicles, automotive auctions, fire and police departments, salvage auctions, rental agencies, automotive recyclers, insurance companies, state inspection stations, manufacturers, and car dealerships.
In order to obtain a Vehicle History and Title Report, a potential buyer can go online to a reporting service provider and purchase a full report. Some services also offer a lower cost option for a Salvage and VIN Check Report, which has just the accident history. Salvage and VIN Check reports can also be accessed through mobile phones via SMS text and online through companies such as instaVIN. Free reports online are offered from time to time by major history reporting companies however; they are often limited in the scope and detail of information. Used car dealers often provide a report upon request for a specific vehicle as part of the selling process. Consumers can check the validity and date of these reports by running their own report and comparing the results. Old reports may not contain the latest history as the reports are time sensitive. Typically, a consumer is most interested in whether or not the vehicle has been in a severe accident or has been branded as salvage, junk or totaled.
Currently these reporting services provide accident history within their full reports: instaVIN, AutoCheck and Carfax.
Vehicle History Report Services
instaVIN (a service of MobileTrac, LLC.) will deliver reports online. instaVIN is the one of four vehicle history services that have Title and Brand data from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The other three are Checkthatvin.com, VinAlert.com, and add123.com. Through its partnership with NMVTIS, instaVIN reports include the most comprehensive current Junk/Salvage/Total Loss records available. instaVIN reports are available for passenger cars and light trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles (RVs), heavy trucks and pre-1981 classic cars.
instaVIN Vehicle History Service provides real-time Salvage and VIN Check History Reports and Vehicle History and Title Reports online.  Salvage and VIN Check Reports include accident indicators, junk/salvage and total loss data from NMVTIS. The Salvage and VIN Check Reports also include real-time vehicle valuations of the average local retail asking price. The Salvage and VIN Check reports cost $2.99 for each report. instaVIN Vehicle History and Title Reports are $6.99 each.
InstaVIN Vehicle History and Title Reports
instaVIN Vehicle History and Title Reports provide users important information in several areas:
Title Information/Brands: The instaVIN Vehicle History and Title Report contains information from NMVTIS – the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System which is a result of the Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992. NMVTIS was mandated by Congress for the purpose of reducing title fraud by car thieves and other criminals by making it harder to “wash” a title. “Title washing” refers to illegally titling a vehicle following a severe accident or theft in a second state as “clean”.
An example of this is when a vehicle has been in a severe accident, declared a total loss by an insurance company and properly titled with a Salvage brand in one state. It could then be bought, taken to a second state and illegally titled without the Salvage brand. That vehicle could then be sold with its “clean” title, and for a higher price to an unsuspecting consumer.
Brand Name Definition Clear The title for this vehicle is reported to be clear, meaning it is free of any lemon, odometer or damage related title brands that can affect the vehicle's safety and value. Flood Damage The vehicle is reported to have experienced significant flood or water damage. Vehicles with flood damage can have hidden problems that can affect its safety and value. Fire Damage The vehicle is reported to have experienced significant fire damage.
Vehicles with fire damage can have missing or damaged components that can affect its safety and value.
Hail Damage The vehicle is reported to have experienced significant hail damage. Hail typically affects the vehicle exterior, and hail titles are issued when the cost to repair exceeds the value. Salt Water Damage The vehicle is reported to have experienced significant flood or water damage. Vehicles with saltwater flood damage can have hidden problems that can affect the safety and value. Vandalism The vehicle is reported to have been damaged by vandals. Kit The vehicle is reported to have been built by combining a chassis with a different (non-matching VIN) frame, engine, and body parts. The VIN on the chassis is used as the vehicle's VIN. Dismantled The vehicle is reported to have been dismantled for parts and should not be legally driven. These vehicles typically have significant damage that severely affects the vehicle's safety and value. Junk The vehicle is reported to have been designated as junk and has no resale value except as a source for parts or scrap. These vehicles typically have significant damage that severely affect the vehicle's safety and value, and should not be titled or registered for operation. Rebuilt The vehicle is reported to have been previously titled as salvage or total loss and has been rebuilt and is often required to pass safety and other inspections. Rebuilt vehicles often have issues that affect the vehicle's safety and/or value. Reconstructed The vehicle is reported to have been reconstructed or altered from the original construction by adding, removing or substituting major vehicle components. Reconstructed vehicles often have issues that affect the vehicle's safety and/or value. Salvage The vehicle is reported to have been wrecked, destroyed or damaged to the extent that the total cost of parts and labor to legally rebuild the vehicle exceeds the jurisdiction's defined percentage of the retail value of the vehicle. Salvage brands can also be the result of an insurance total loss, or of an insurance company settlement with the vehicle's owner without regard to the extent of the damage. Test Vehicle The vehicle is reported to have been retained by the manufacturer for testing purposes. Refurbished The vehicle is reported to have been modified by the installation of a new cab and chassis for the existing coach which has been renovated, resulting in a vehicle of greater value or a vehicle with a new style. Collision The vehicle is reported to have been damaged by a collision. Salvage Retention The vehicle is reported to have been branded as salvage, but has been kept by the owner. Salvage vehicles often have issues that affect the vehicle's safety and/or value. Prior Taxi The vehicle is reported to have been used as a taxi or vehicle for hire. Prior Police The vehicle is reported to have been used as a police vehicle. Current Taxi The vehicle is reported to currently be used as a taxi or vehicle for hire. Current Police The vehicle is reported to currently be used as a police vehicle. Remanufactured The vehicle is reported to have been reconstructed by the manufacturer. Warranty Return The vehicle is reported to have been returned to the manufacturer because of a breach in the warranty. Antique The vehicle is reported to be more than 50 years old. Classic The vehicle is reported to be more than 20 years old and adheres to certain jurisdiction specific criteria like vehicle make, condition, etc. Agricultural Vehicle The vehicle is reported to be used primarily for agricultural purposes. Logging Vehicle The vehicle is reported to be used primarily for logging purposes. Street Rod The vehicle is reported to have been modified not to conform with the manufacturer's specifications, and the modifications adhere to jurisdiction-specific criteria. Vehicle Contains Reissued VIN The vehicle is reported to have the chassis VIN reissued such that the same VIN is reused. Replica The vehicle is reported to have a body built to resemble and be a reproduction of another vehicle of a given year and given manufacturer. Totaled The vehicle is reported to have been declared to be a total loss by a jurisdiction or an insurance company that covers the loss or takes possession of the vehicle and/or title. Vehicles that are declared a total loss can have issues that affect the vehicle's safety and/or value. Owner Retained The vehicle is reported to have been declared to be a total loss by an insurance company but the owner has maintained ownership. Vehicles that are declared a total loss can have issues that affect the vehicle's safety and/or value. Bond Posted The vehicle is reported to have had a bonded title issued by an insurance company because ownership of the vehicle cannot be proven, thus allowing the vehicle to be sold and titled. Memorandum Copy The vehicle is reported to have had a memorandum copy of a title issued, usually a facsimile title and not the active original. Recovered Theft The vehicle is reported to have been previously titled as salvage due to theft. The Vehicle has been repaired and inspected (or complied with other jurisdiction procedures) and may be legally driven. Undisclosed Lien The vehicle is reported to have been previously titled in a
jurisdiction that does not disclose lien-holder information on the title.
Prior Owner Retained The vehicle is reported to be previously branded as owner retained as salvage. Vehicle Non-conformity Uncorrected The vehicle is reported to have a non-safety defect reported to the jurisdiction by the vehicle manufacturer that remains uncorrected. Vehicle Non-conformity Corrected The vehicle is reported to have a non-safety defect reported to the jurisdiction by the vehicle manufacturer that has been corrected. Vehicle Safety Defect Uncorrected The vehicle is reported to have a safety defect reported to the jurisdiction by the vehicle manufacturer that remains uncorrected. Vehicle Safety Defect Corrected The vehicle is reported to have a safety defect reported to the jurisdiction by the vehicle manufacturer that has been corrected. VIN replaced by a new state assigned VIN The vehicle has had a new VIN issued. A new title should not be issued. Gray Market The vehicle is reported to have been manufactured for a non-US market and brought into the US for road use. These vehicles must be inspected to ensure that they meet US safety standards. The “Grey Market” brand can be lessened when the vehicle has reported to have been inspected and is reported to be in compliance with applicable federal standards. Manufacturer Buy Back The vehicle is reported to have been bought back by its manufacturer according to local regulations or laws, such as lemon laws. Manufacturer buy backs can be as a result of a ruling or for customer service. Former Rental The vehicle is reported to have been used as a rental vehicle. Salvage—Stolen The vehicle is reported to have been declared a salvage vehicle due to
insurance company settlement based on theft. Salvage vehicles often have issues that affect the vehicle's safety and/or value.
Salvage—Reasons Other Than Damage or Stolen The vehicle is reported to have been declared Salvage based on other local criteria like abandonment. Disclosed Damage The vehicle is reported to have sustained damage to the extent that the damage is required to be disclosed per local law. Prior Non-Repairable/ Repaired The vehicle is reported to have been constructed by repairing a vehicle that has been destroyed or declared to be non-repairable or otherwise declared to not be eligible for titling because of the extent of damage to the vehicle but has been issued a title pursuant to state law after falling within this criterion with this brand on the face of the certificate of title. Crushed The vehicle is reported to have had its frame or chassis crushed or otherwise destroyed, such that it is impossible to use it to construct a vehicle. Actual The vehicle is reported to have a working odometer that has not been tampered with, or altered, or the vehicle has not reached its mechanical limits. Not Actual The vehicle is reported to have an odometer reading other than the true mileage for the vehicle. Odometer problems can render the actual mileage to be unknown which affects maintenance scheduling, warranties and vehicle value. Exempt from Odometer Disclosure The vehicle is reported to fall within criteria that allow it to change ownership without disclosing the odometer reading. Often vehicles that are 10 or more years old are exempt from odometer readings. Exceeds Mechanical Limits The vehicle is reported to have an odometer reading that is less than the true mileage of the vehicle because the odometer can not display the total number of true miles. These are often odometers with five digits that has rolled over. Odometer may be Altered The vehicle is reported to have an odometer reading other than the true mileage for the vehicle. Odometer problems can render the actual mileage to be unknown which affects maintenance scheduling, warranties and vehicle value. Odometer Replaced The vehicle is reported to have an odometer which is not the odometer put in the vehicle when manufactured. Odometer problems can render the actual mileage to be unknown which affects maintenance scheduling, warranties and vehicle value. Reading at Time of Renewal The vehicle is reported to have an odometer reading recorded with the registration was renewed. Odometer Discrepancy The vehicle is reported to have an odometer reading that does not reflect the true mileage of the vehicle. Odometer problems can render the actual mileage to be unknown which affects maintenance scheduling, warranties and vehicle value. Call Title Division The titling authority knows of some problem with the odometer reading that it cannot print on a title. Titling authority will discuss the problem (manual process) with authorized inquirers. Rectify Previous Exceeds Mechanical Limits Brand The vehicle is reported to have had an Exceeds Mechanical Limits title issued in error. Junk Automobile - CARS.gov The vehicle is reported to be included in the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act of 2009 (CARS), and is incapable of operating on public streets, roads, and highways. The vehicle has no value except as a source of parts or scrap, shall be crushed or shredded within a specified time period (including the engine block), and shall not be exported prior to crushing or shredding. For additional information concerning the CARS program visit CARS.gov.
NMVTIS was designed to make it possible for states to check the actual (real-time) title status of any vehicle being brought in from another state, thus reducing the ability to wash titles of Salvage or Theft. NMVTIS data provides title and brand history for automobiles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles (RV’s) and classic cars.
Currently every state’s (except Illinois and District of Columbia) DMV title data including brand data is included in the NMVTIS system and is reported by instaVIN users in real-time. As of November 2010, 49 of 51 states (including DC) are either currently reporting information into NMVTIS or are in development to do so. NMVTIS reports a total of 61 different DMV title brands, many of which can indicate problems with the vehicle that can affect the vehicle’s safety and value.
NMVTIS title brand names and instaVIN definitions
Salvage/Junk/Total Loss: In addition to the state title and brand data, instaVIN also has access to NMVTIS-sourced salvage/junk and total loss information. All salvage auctions, insurance companies and junk yards are required by law to submit their information to NMVTIS. As of November 2010, more than 20 million records have been reported by these entities and are available in the NMVTIS database.
Accident History: Since consumers and other users of vehicle history are usually concerned about whether or not a vehicle has been in an accident, InstaVIN Vehicle History and Title Reports also contain state and independently sourced accident information as available. The information lets potential buyers know if the car has been in a reported accident, and any known details such as accident severity, type of accident, and location on the vehicle.
Odometer History: Another area of concern is the odometer. Vehicle history users want to know if the odometer has been rolled back or is the odometer broken. instaVIN looks at reported mileage readings and lets the user know if a later odometer reading is less than an earlier one, which could indicate a potential roll back. instaVIN also reports DMV mileage brands such as true mileage unknown through NMVTIS.
In addition to information that can alert users to major problems, instaVIN Vehicle History and Title Reports have the following information that can help users with their vehicle purchases.
Record Summary: This provides summarized information from the main sections and wraps it up in a summary. The section also includes a proprietary “Vehicle Valuator” Guide with real-time auto values based on vehicles for sale in the local market in the user’s zip code.
Vehicle Specifications: Using the VIN to decode information, instaVIN reports on up to 26 different aspects of the vehicle at the time of manufacture, including basic information like the year/make/model, plus detail like installed safety equipment, gross vehicle weight and base MSRP.
Ownership Information: Each title that is reported to NMVTIS is listed here, along with the state of issue. Many but not all titles represent in a change of vehicle ownership.
The Salvage and VIN Check Reports are $2.99 each.
CARFAX is a commercial web-based service that supplies vehicle history reports to individuals and businesses on used cars and light trucks for the American and Canadian marketplaces.
CARFAX has access to eight billion records from more than 34,000 sources, including motor vehicle departments for all 50 U.S. states and all 10 Canadian provinces. The company's information sources include U.S. state title and registration records, auto and salvage auctions, Canadian motor vehicle records, rental and fleet vehicle companies, consumer protection agencies, state inspection stations, extended warranty companies, insurance companies, fire and police departments, manufacturers, inspection companies, service and repair facilities, dealers and import/export companies.
Although CARFAX continuously expands its database and resources, some information is not allowed to be provided. Under the 1994 Drivers Privacy Protection Act, personal information such as names, telephone numbers and addresses of current or previous owners are neither collected nor reported. CARFAX does not have access to every facility and mistakes are sometimes made by those who input data. In the event information is disputed but cannot be verified, CARFAX allows consumers and dealerships to add information to its reports.
The company offers four free vehicle research services—Lemon Check, Record Check, Recall Check, and Problem Car. While these services are helpful, they do not contain all of the information provided in a full CARFAX vehicle history report. CARFAX Vehicle History Reports are available on all used cars and light trucks model year 1981 or later. Using a unique 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN), a CARFAXReport is instantly generated from their database of over seven billion records.
Additionally, the company offers Hot Listings, which provides a free search of local used cars for sale, including access to CARFAX reports. Through CARFAX Hot Listings, used car buyers find cars that are eligible for the CARFAX Buyback Guarantee just listed for sale in their area. Each car listed comes with a free CARFAX Vehicle History Report. CARFAX Safety & Reliability Ratings provide crash test results, safety recalls, reliability ratings, and warranty information for thousands of vehicle makes and models. Finally, the company provides Car Safety and Reliability Ratings, which provides access to reviews and other data from sources such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, J.D. Power and Associates, IntelliChoice and others.
To keep the cost of its products affordable, CARFAX has invested a new generation of customer support software that provides responses to customer questions. CARFAX has a partner network including relationships with companies such as Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, AAA, Carchex, AutoTrader and Cars.com
CARFAX reports cost $34.99 for a single report or $44.99 for a bundle of five reports.
AutoCheck is a vehicle history reporting service used to assist in the used car shopping process. The company’s signature car scoring device is the AutoCheck Score, a number used to evaluate and compare vehicle histories and lower the risk of buying a vehicle with undetected problems.
Factors that can negatively influence the Score include:
- Title brands such as salvaged or rebuilt title
- Problems with the odometer such as rollback or broken odometer
- Frame damage
- Water damage
- Whether the vehicle has been branded as a lemon
- Whether the vehicle has ever been stolen or repossessed
- Whether the vehicle has ever been used as a police or taxi vehicle
AutoCheck Score is a rating summarizing the longer list of report data. Paired with the AutoCheck Score Range, the AutoCheck Score allows a quick comparison between vehicles of similar age and class. The AutoCheck Score is based on a scale of 1 to 100.
The AutoCheck Score is based on a number of key factors, including:
- Age - In general, the older the car, the lower the Score.
- Vehicle Class - Compact cars look nothing like pickup trucks. Their breakdown history can be just as different.
- Mileage - In general, the more miles a vehicle has, the lower the Score, compared to similar vehicles.
- Number of Owners - the data tell the typical number of owners that vehicles generally have over time. If a car has had more than the expected number, that can cause the Score to decrease.
- Vehicle Use and Events - Other factors such as taxi use, accidents, repossession and theft history also affect the AutoCheck Score.
- AutoCheck gets its data from Experian, the company that founded and currently operates AutoCheck.
Data is compiled from many sources including the Department of Motor Vehicles, salvage yards/recycling facilities, auctions, insurance companies and other independent sources. Police-reported accident information is available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Critical information on storm-damaged vehicles and vehicles registered in Federal Emergency Management Agency storm damage areas at the time of major storm events. AutoCheck Reports are available for $29.99 for a single report or $44.99 for unlimited reports for 30 days. A buyer can pay $59.99 for unlimited reports for 30 days with title insurance.
Cycle VIN is a vehicle history report service that focuses exclusively on the Motorcycle industry. This service provides Motorcycle History Reports based on the 17-digit VIN located on all motor vehicles manufactured after 1981 in the USA. The report contains information on the history of each motorcycle, and is comprehensive in nature. Each report includes information such as state of original title, any new states with title history, junk and salvage information, title brands, stolen/theft reports, and total loss records. This information is sourced from state DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) offices, insurance companies, salvage yards, and auto recyclers.
The information contained in the Cycle VIN database is updated on a weekly and monthly basis, depending on the practices of the reporting source(s). The motorcycle VIN checks provided by CycleVIN cost $25 and are available online for 60 days, in addition to the ability to email the report directly to the purchaser for future reference. Using a system like CycleVIN aids in preventing the sale of stolen, wrecked, unsafe, and illegal motorcycles. This represents a huge new opportunity[says who?] for motorcycle buyers and sellers to have the safety and security of researching the history of the motorcycle prior to sale. CycleVIN functions as the Carfax for the motorcycle industry.
CarProof, a London, Ontario company, was started in 2000 to provide the most comprehensive, accurate and timely used vehicle history reports available in Canada. In addition to being the Official Report of the OADA-TADA New Car Dealers of Ontario, CarProof is used by the governments of Alberta and PEI as part of their provincial registry, used by the Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of British Columbia and endorsed by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and by the major motor vehicle manufacturers in Canada. CarProof is also the sole supplier of vehicle history reports to both Manheim Canada and ADESA Canada auctions for all of their U.S. import vehicle and arbitrations.
- ^ http://www.instavin.com/sampleReport.php
- ^ http://www.CARFAX.com/about/data_sources.cfx
- ^ http://www.instavin.com/press.php
- ^ http://www.instavin.com/learnMore.php
- ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NMVTIS NMVTIS
- ^ http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/Anti_Car_Theft_Act.pdf
- ^ CARFAX.com
- ^ http://www.autocheck.com/?siteID=0&WT.mc_id=0
- ^ http://www.autocheck.com/consumers/content/autocheck-score.do
- ^ http://www.autocheck.com/consumers/about/aboutUs.do
- ^ http://www.cyclevin.com/about_us.php
- ^ http://www.cyclevin.com/
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.