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What Is a Vehicle History Report? Understanding Its Pros and Cons

What Is a Vehicle History Report? Understanding Its Pros and Cons

Written By

Peter O'Neil

Published

Jun 7, 2023

Used Cars on a Dealership lot
Used Cars on a Dealership lot
Used Cars on a Dealership lot
Used Cars on a Dealership lot

Uncover the origins, components, and benefits of Vehicle History Reports (VHRs) in this comprehensive guide. Understand the pros and cons today.

Introduction

When shopping for a used car, a Vehicle History Report (VHR) can be your most informative companion. Pioneered by companies like CarFax and AutoCheck, VHRs initially gathered data from state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) upon the first sale and registration of the car. Today, a VHR offers a broad snapshot of a vehicle's life, pooling data from various sources to provide invaluable insights for potential buyers.

Details of a Vehicle History Report

Details of a Vehicle History Report

A VHR is packed with essential details about a vehicle's history, including:

  1. Ownership History: Here, you'll see the number and types of previous owners, as well as the duration of ownership. This information can hint at the vehicle's likely wear and tear and potential upkeep.

  2. Reported Accidents: This section contains data on any reported accidents. It's important to remember that not all accidents are equal—minor incidents might not impact a vehicle's reliability as much as major ones.

  3. Title Status: The title status, whether clean, salvage, or rebuilt, provides critical information about the car's past. A salvage or rebuilt title could suggest severe past damage.

  4. Odometer Readings: Regular updates on the vehicle's mileage can reveal its usage over time and help detect possible odometer fraud.

  5. Recall Information: If the car was ever recalled for safety issues, this will be listed, as unfixed recalls can pose significant safety risks.

  6. Service and Maintenance History: While this might not always be complete, any reported service or maintenance records can offer insights into the car's upkeep. In the absence of other maintenance records, this can be particularly valuable.

Pros of Vehicle History Reports

  • VHRs offer transparency into a vehicle's history, which can reveal potential issues like odometer fraud, undisclosed accidents, or title problems.

  • They provide a sense of security and confidence in your purchase.

Cons of Vehicle History Reports

  • VHRs might instill a false sense of security, causing potential buyers to skip or downplay the importance of a physical inspection.

  • Not all VHRs are perfect—they might contain errors or miss unreported incidents.

  • The reporting of any accident on a VHR might discourage potential buyers. But remember, not all accidents carry the same weight—a minor fender bender is not the same as a collision causing structural damage.

Pro Tip

Keep in mind that VHRs are not created equal. Different providers, like CarFax and AutoCheck, may have unique data sources, which can lead to differences in information, particularly about repairs and maintenance.

Conclusion

Vehicle History Reports are a powerful tool in the used car buying process. They offer a wealth of information that can help avoid potential pitfalls and inform your purchase. But remember, a VHR is just one piece of the puzzle—it should be used in conjunction with a vehicle inspection and a mechanic's assessment. Now, equipped with an in-depth understanding of VHRs, you are ready to make informed decisions in your car buying journey.

Vehicle Valuation & Pricing FAQs

How can I determine if a used car is priced fairly?

To determine whether a used car is priced fairly, start by using vehicle valuation tools like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or Black Book to find the average price range for the specific make, model, year, mileage, and condition of the car you're interested in. Compare the dealer's price with these figures. Next, examine the vehicle's history report for any factors that could affect its value, such as an accident history or extensive repairs. Consider the car's maintenance and service records, if available. Regular maintenance and timely repairs can enhance a vehicle's value. However, always have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle to uncover any potential issues that might not be visible or disclosed.

What is Manheim's MMR and how does it feed into Kelley Blue Book, Black Book, and others?

Manheim Market Report (MMR) is a pricing tool used by dealers that provides data on wholesale used vehicle prices, and it's largely based on Manheim auction transactions. These figures are an important input for other vehicle valuation services like Kelley Blue Book and Black Book. The MMR provides a snapshot of what similar vehicles are selling for at wholesale auctions, helping these services understand current market trends and adjust their pricing models accordingly.


What is Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price and what is it based on?

Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price is an indicator of what other buyers in your area have been paying for a similar vehicle. It's derived from millions of real-world transactions and adjusted regularly as market conditions change. This includes both dealership and private party sales. Keep in mind that the Fair Purchase Price is a range, not a single number, and your actual price may vary depending on factors like color, options, dealer incentives, and local demand.


How do dealers price their used cars?

Dealers price their used cars based on various factors. These include the car's condition, mileage, the demand in the local market, and the wholesale price they paid for it, influenced by vehicle auction data. Dealers also factor in their reconditioning costs, marketing expenses, overheads, and a target profit margin. They also consider their inventory turnover. If a vehicle has been sitting for more than 30 days, they're more likely to lower the selling price. Dealers often use tools like vAuto, a sister company of Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader, to understand vehicle pricing in their market. vAuto leverages used car vehicle listings to assess the market, which reflect retail prices, or prices being offered to and paid by consumers.

How should I compare prices from competing dealers on a new car?

When comparing prices from competing dealers on a new car, it's crucial to compare the "out-the-door" prices. The out-the-door price is the total cost of the car, including taxes, registration fees, and any dealer-installed options or accessories. This ensures you're comparing "like to like", considering the same year, make, model, trim level, features, and overall cost, rather than just the sticker price. Keep in mind that the lowest sticker price may not always be the best overall deal when you factor in all these variables. Always consider the full terms of the deal, including any incentives, rebates, warranties, and post-sale services.


What are the pros and cons of leasing a car versus buying a car?

Leasing allows you to drive a new car every few years with potentially lower monthly payments and less up-front costs. It's a good option if you like having the latest models and don't mind always having a car payment.

Buying, on the other hand, might be more expensive initially, but you have the freedom to modify the car, sell it, or drive it for many years, potentially saving money in the long term. However, you'll be responsible for maintenance after the warranty expires. This decision depends on your financial situation, how much you drive, and whether you view a car as an asset or a tool.

Should I buy new or used?

The decision between new and used cars depends on various factors including your budget, needs, and preferences. A new car is just that - new. This means that everything from the tires to the brakes and engine has not been used, which can provide peace of mind about its condition. Additionally, new cars come with the latest features and are typically covered by a comprehensive manufacturer warranty.

Financing rates for new cars can also be more attractive, especially when manufacturers are offering incentives. These incentives can lower the interest rate, sometimes to below what you'd get for a used car loan.

However, new cars can be significantly more expensive upfront and depreciate quickly. Once you drive the car off the lot, its value can drop substantially.

On the other hand, used cars are generally more affordable upfront and they suffer less depreciation. For the price of a new car, you might be able to get a used luxury or high-performance car. But, a used car can come with maintenance issues from previous ownership, and you'll likely face higher interest rates when financing. A certified pre-owned program can help provide some assurance about the condition of the car, but it's not the same as having a brand-new vehicle.

In the end, the decision between new and used cars depends on your personal preferences, financial situation, and risk tolerance.

What is the difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified for a vehicle loan?

Pre-qualification is often the first step in the auto loan process. It gives you a rough estimate of how much you might be able to borrow based on basic financial information that you provide. It doesn’t guarantee you'll get the loan, as it's a preliminary assessment.

Pre-approval, on the other hand, is a more in-depth process. The lender will check your credit history and other financial information in greater detail to offer you a specific loan amount and interest rate. This step can provide you with a stronger negotiation position when you are at the dealership because you have a firm understanding of how much you can borrow.

Why are some vehicle dealers non-negotiable like CarMax and others are negotiable?

Different car dealerships have different sales models. Dealers like CarMax use a no-haggle pricing model, which means the price you see is the price you get. This model can reduce stress for buyers who dislike negotiation. It also offers transparency in pricing.

Dive Even Deeper into Vehicle Valuation & Pricing

Dive Even Deeper into Vehicle Valuation & Pricing

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CarOracle is a California-licensed automotive dealer, License No: 43082, with an autobroker's endorsement, enabling us to represent consumers in the purchase or leasing of new and used vehicles.

©2024 CarOracle. All rights reserved

CarOracle is a California-licensed automotive dealer, License No: 43082, with an autobroker's endorsement, enabling us to represent consumers in the purchase or leasing of new and used vehicles.

©2024 CarOracle. All rights reserved

CarOracle is a California-licensed automotive dealer, License No: 43082, with an autobroker's endorsement, enabling us to represent consumers in the purchase or leasing of new and used vehicles.

©2024 CarOracle. All rights reserved