CARFAX provides an invaluable service, as they were among the pioneering organizations that made it possible for individuals to access comprehensive automotive records and gain a better understanding about any given car's past ownership histories.
However, one thing that I don't like about CARFAX is the price. A single CARFAX report costs $39.99 so I am forced to purchase the CARFAX report(s) only after I've narrowed my choices down to the last 1-2 cars.
Most of the information on the CARFAX report looked like it came from DMV, insurance, and NHTSA databases. So I asked myself, there had to be other less expensive vehicle history report options available.
But I am jumping ahead… Let's start off with…
What is a Vehicle History Report?
A vehicle history report (also called a VIN report), provides detailed information on the service, repair and accident history of an individual motor vehicle over its lifetime. It can be used to help determine if any issues have been reported or repaired in relation to that particular car, as well as provide a comprehensive record of ownership details such as odometer readings, mileage discrepancies etc. Some VIN reports also include additional information like pricing, average cost to maintain and operate the vehicle, and local used car dealerships that have similar vehicles in-stock.
Each vehicle manufactured for the US since 1981 has an unique Vehicle Identification Number (or VIN) assigned to it. A vehicle's VIN is used by government agencies and private companies to refer to a specific vehicle in car registrations, auto insurance policies, and even auto loans.
If you want more information about the VIN, take a look at this article.
Now that you know the basics of a VIN report, the next logical question is…
Why do I need a Vehicle History Report?
In three words… piece of mind.
When you go shop for a used vehicle at a car dealership, the salesperson will normally show you the vehicle history report like a CARFAX on the vehicle that you are thinking about purchasing.
When you are buying a used vehicle from an individual (private party), the seller won't provide you with a vehicle report like the dealership. So you either have to take the seller in his/her word on the vehicle's accident history, odometer reading, etc. or you can purchase a vehicle report on you own.
Tip: If you are buying a used vehicle from a private party, you may want to also take the vehicle to your local mechanic to check the vehicle.
Why not CARFAX?
CARFAX is a great service. They were one of the first companies to provide detailed vehicle history reports to consumers.
However, the cost of the report is quite high. Here are the prices:
- One Report: $39.99
- 3 Reports: $59.99
- 6 Reports: $99.99
Sure, one could purchase more CARFAX reports to reduce the cost of each report down to around $16.67 (if you buy the 6 report bundle) but that would mean that you would have to pay almost $100 up front to get this discounted price.
What are Other Cheaper Vehicle History Report Options?
Let's take a look at some less expensive vehicle history report options that give you similar vehicle history information but at a much more affordable price.
The following vehicle report alternatives access similar if not the same databases and registries that CARFAX use. Like CARFAX, you can get a discounted price if you order multiple reports. If you are comparing multiple used vehicles, this is a great option for you.
OPTION 1: VinCheckUp
A single VinCheckUp vehicle history report costs only $14.95. The report can be downloaded and/or printed for 30-days.
Like CARFAX, the VinCheckUp report shows structural damage, lemon history, junk or salvage vehicle, odometer reading, total lost history, recalls & defects, accident history, title information, and of course, vehicle specifications.
OPTION 2: VinAudit
VinAudit has the option to purchase one report for $9.99.
VinAudit provides a similar report like VinCheckUp (vehicle specification, title records, junk/salvage/insurance records, accident records, theft records, lien/impound/export records, salvage auction records, sale records, title checks, etc.).
Additionally, the VinAudit report provides the market value of the vehicle, ownership cost, and other resources on the vehicle like retail value and the vehicle's NHTSA 5-star rating.