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How to Check Your Vehicle’s History

Was that used car you're about to buy subjected to damage you can't see? Here's how to tell.


  • Step 1: Jot down the VIN –the vehicle identification number – of the car you're considering. You can usually find it at the base of the windshield and on the driver-side doorjamb.
  • TIP: If the VIN doesn't have exactly 17 characters, the car was manufactured from before 1981 and won't be in any vehicle history database.
  • Step 2: Search online for vehicle-history reporting sites by typing "vehicle history reports" into a search engine.
  • Step 3: Choose between paying for a one-time report (around $20 to $25), or paying about $5 more for unlimited reports within a certain time period, usually 30 to 60 days.
  • Step 4: Enter your VIN number. Review the report, which will include the number of owners, accident reports, signs that the odometer has been rolled back, whether the car was ever damaged enough to be certified as salvage, and whether it ever sustained fire or flood damage.
  • TIP: Beware of a car that was flooded or salvaged. Water can cause damage that doesn't show up right away, and cosmetic fixes can mask many problems that will crop up later.
  • Step 5: Keep car shopping until you find a vehicle with a clean record you're satisfied with. Your reputation is your own business, but you'll want to avoid a car with a bad one!
  • FACT: Texas has more used vehicles than any other state. Houston alone has about 32,000 on the market at any given time.

You Will Need

  • The caru2019s vehicle identification number
  • A vehicle history report

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