Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. How to Check a Car's History

How to Check a Car's History

man standing next to a beat up truck

Before buying a used vehicle, you should run a vehicle history check to make sure there are no major accidents, flood damage, or a salvage title attached to the vehicle. You have a few options available when doing so, including getting a vehicle history from the dealer or their website or looking up the vehicle history yourself.

Method 1 of 2: On the dealer's website

Materials Needed

  • Desktop computer or laptop
  • Pencil and paper
  • Printer

As more dealers put their entire stock of vehicles online, you can now find a particular vehicle's car history report fairly easily. On many dealer sites, accessing the vehicle history report is just a mouse click away - for free.

  • Tip: On a related note, some sellers on online auction sites, such as eBay, offer free vehicle history reports with their listings. While not all eBay sellers offer this service, they do give you the option to pay for a vehicle history report through a link on the listing.

Step 1: Search online. Enter the used car dealer's website address in your web browser. If you do not have any particular dealership in mind, you can just perform a general search for used cars and a variety of sites should come up.

carfax link circled
Image: BMW Mountain View

Step 2: Check out the car listings. Once on a site that offers free vehicle history reports, peruse the listings available. When you find a used vehicle that interests you, look for a link to the vehicle history report.

carfax bmw report
Image: Carfax

Step 3: Click the link. Navigate to the report on the vehicle history.

From there you can check out such things as how many owners the vehicle has had, the odometer reading, and a vehicle and title history, including any accidents the vehicle has been in and if the vehicle has a salvage title attached to the title.

Step 4: Look at other cars. You can then look at other vehicle history reports for listings you are interested in. When you find a vehicle you like, print the vehicle history report out from the vehicle history site.

Method 2 of 2: Perform the vehicle history report search yourself

Materials Needed

  • Desktop computer or laptop
  • Pencil and paper
  • Printer
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • License plate number (if you do not have the VIN)

Another option, and one that can get expensive if you perform a lot of vehicle history searches, is to do it yourself. When pulling up a vehicle history report yourself, you need the vehicle's VIN.

Step 1: Enter the web address of the vehicle history site you want to use. Some commonly used sites include Carfax, AutoCheck, and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

Image: Carfax

Step 2: Enter the VIN. Once you are on the site you want to use, enter either the VIN or the license plate number and state in the fields provided.

Double check the VIN or license plate number to make sure it is correct before pressing enter.

Image: Carfax

Step 3: Enter your payment information. Once you press enter, the site takes you to the payment screen where you enter your payment information.

Most sites offer a single or multiple vehicle history report package, as well as unlimited reports for so many days.

  • Tip: You can get a free Carfax by looking up similar cars at nearby dealerships. Carfax lists these vehicles in a format similar to classified ads, and there is a button with every car that will show the Carfax report for that car.

Step 4: Print the report. After entering the package you want and the payment information, you should then get a vehicle history report attached to the VIN or license plate number you entered.

You should print this vehicle history report out and add them to your records if you decide to purchase the used vehicle in question.

Regardless of whether the dealership offers a free vehicle history report or if you have to pay for it yourself, you should always get a used vehicle checked out by a trusted mechanic. You can call one of our experienced mechanics to perform a pre-purchase car inspection to ensure any used car is working properly.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0222 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle/Pedal Position Switch/Sensor B Circuit Low Input
P0222 code definition Throttle/Pedal Position Switch/Sensor B Circuit Low Input What the P0222...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
How to Transfer a Car Title in Idaho
In order to prove ownership of a car, you must have the title. However, when a car is sold, given away or inherited, the title needs...


Related questions

Q: Car won't start sometimes

The vehicle and engine would decide on the actual cost to repair the problems. The no start may be more than a battery or starter. I recommend having a pre-purchase inspection done on the car to ensure that the correct...

Q: The vin for this vehicle is not available at this time. I don't have it in my possession right now.

Many repairs do not require VIN number detail. It is typically only if you are requesting (or yourself buying) dealer supplied OEM parts that VIN numbers are required for parts ordering. If you write back in, or call YourMechanic at...

Q: Should I buy this 1997 BMW 528I

Hello. BMW makes a fantastic vehicle that, as you know is well known for its performance and luxury. With that comes a little more of a price tag in terms of maintenance and upkeep as with any performance or luxury...