Thursday, September 07, 2006

Get a VIN Search Before you Buy your Next Used Car

By David Bloom

The VIN search is a very important part of the used vehicle buying process. It is usually the last step before the final decision is made; after the car has passed professional inspection and test driving. The VIN search digs deep into the vehicle's history to reveal any hidden problems, as well as other vital information, so that you can be confident that you are purchasing the right vehicle.

A lot of people believe that it is enough to give a car a visual inspection and drive it around for a while to decide whether or not it is worth purchasing. The problem is, oftentimes even the most trained mechanic will overlook something, or a cursory test-drive will not reveal a persistent problem that perhaps manifests itself after several miles of driving.

The VIN search acts as your personal private investigator. Using a vehicle's unique 17-character Vehicle Identification Number, it taps into millions of DMV records to reveal all of the history available on that particular car, from its first registration up until its very last DMV transaction.

The initial free VIN search will tell you the year, make and model so you can be sure it's actually the automobile the owner tells you it'd be surprised how often a seller will tell you it's a later model than it actually is. In addition, it will tell you the country of manufacture, the restraint system as well as what type of brakes it has and how many doors.

After the free VIN search, you can dig deeper to find other important information about the car. This is called the vehicle history report, and it contains specific data such as hidden problems, including odometer tampering, serious mechanical issues, hail or fire damage, police use and much more. You will also find out if the vehicle has changed hands a number of times, how many miles should be on the vehicle, and other important facts.

There are two major companies that offer the VIN search and the full vehicle history report: CARFAX and AutoCheck, both well-established entities with billions of records on millions of used cars. The cost is only $19.99 for one report or $24.99 for unlimited reports. It makes sense to opt for the unlimited if you plan on looking at more than one car, as most people do. Chances are the first vehicle you look at won't be the one you end up buying.

We recommend that you have a professional take an extensive look at any vehicle you plan on purchasing, as used cars can cost thousands of dollars. Make sure you drive it around as well, especially on highways so you can get a feel for how it drives. And lastly, get a VIN search and vehicle history report before you's the only way to know for sure that the used car is worth buying.

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