Don't always trust the auto history report

Don’t always trust the auto history report.

A Clean Auto History Report Doesn’t Make It a Good Deal

Nowadays there is a lot of talk about the all mighty auto history report when it comes to buying used cars. We see posters all over dealer walls and commercials on TV. Even sales people try and convince you of the quality of the car based on these reports. But should you trust blindly in them? Well, simply put no.

First let’s take into account what an auto history report does well. That is reporting title records. Typically these companies gather information from title agencies, mainly NMVITS (National Motor Vehicle Title Information System) where all state title agencies are required to submit their title records. This allows us to know ownership changes and find out if a car has a branded/salvage/flood or any other kind of title.

For the other marketing tricks such as accidents reported or service records, well that’s where everything gets a bit confusing and inaccurate. Let’s start with accidents reported. The main way to obtain this information is from police reports and as we all know not all accidents get reported. For example, a fender bender where the owners of the vehicles don’t call the police and get everything sorted out on their own, will never be reported on an auto history report report. Or an accident where someone hits a pole or tree and has his friend repair his car in his backyard or body shop instead of dealing with tickets and increased insurance rates, will never be seen on a report. These cars end up being sold as accident free cars, while there is a ton of previous repairs on them. Even the fine print on an auto history report pretty much tells you that the reliability of the information is based on sources and agencies and they wont be held liable for any omissions. 

Service records can often be inaccurate and cause confusion as well. First of all, not all service centers report to these agencies, so that’s one problem. There is also instances where body shops that do report to certain agencies enter information like ‘vehicle serviced” and some details of the repair which on a auto history report can appear as repairs and not accidents. Sometimes, we also get mileage discrepancies on these reports and these usually occur if the individual entering the vehicle information at the repair facility accidentally types in the wrong mileage. A few months later the same car comes back and another employee enters the correct miles, making it seem as if there was some kind of rollback or tampering.

All in all, it’s safe to assume you will get accurate title information with these reports but that’s about the only thing I would rely on. Definitely have a professional perform a used car inspection to identify any previous repairs or issues. Don’t base your purchasing decisions on just the auto history report.

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