Why you should check your vehicle history report regularly

With new and pre-owned vehicle prices still at eye-watering levels, buying and selling a car has become much more complicated than it used to be. High costs have also made the trade-in value of your existing vehicle a crucial aspect of any deal. Getting the most out of your old car is increasingly the only way to make a new car purchase possible, and many people go to the dealership counting on this trade-in. At the same time, the rising value of used cars has prompted people to view them more as an asset and expect a good price when they decide to sell them.

A common step in any vehicle transaction these days is to check the Vehicle History Report (VHR) on Carfax (or Autocheck), which will show you how many owners a car has had, possibly maintenance records and any accidents. in which the car was involved. These reports also often show whether a car has ever been listed as “totaled” by an insurance company, which could mean a major breakdown that has been repaired. If you’re looking to buy a used car, VHR issues are a very good reason to back off or lower your offer, and if you’re a car dealer, VHR red flags will definitely shrink the trade-in value of a car.

That’s why you shouldn’t wait until you try to sell or trade in a vehicle to check your VHR – just like your credit reports, you should check your car’s VHR once a year.

Common inaccuracies found on VHR

Just like the worst time to discover an error on your credit reports is when you’re sitting at the bank applying for a loan, the worst time to discover that your VHR has inaccurate information is when you’re sitting at a dealership or negotiating with a private buyer for your used car.

And VHRs can be really not exactly. Issues include:

  • Missing information. Companies like Carfax rely on reports from a wide range of government agencies, insurers and repair shops, but not everything is reported in the right way or through the right channels. Missing data on the specific details of an accident or repair can give the impression of a larger problem or turn a minor fender bender into a massive failure.

  • Incorrect information. VHRs can incorrectly report lack of maintenance (due to lack of reports), incorrect odometer readings that can undermine the perceived value of your vehicle, or even report phantom incidents that never happened – and are usually impossible to find out where the false information is coming from (Carfax, for example, will not reveal the sources of any specific VHR details). One journalist reports a VHR from Carfax showing his car’s airbags deployed, suggesting a bad crash. The only problem? His car didn’t they have airbags.

  • Misleading information. Another problem that may be lurking in your vehicle’s VHR is data that is technically correct but incomplete. Most VHRs will list the vehicle as “totaled” (deemed a total loss by the insurance company) without context – insurers used the term “total loss” to indicate that the cost of repairing a car exceeded the value of the car. This is not a description of the damage level. But many buyers and dealerships will see “total loss” and assume the car was badly damaged and then repaired, which can lead to low offers or a refusal to trade in.

Realizing that the VHR is wrong is one thing. Fixing them is a whole other battle.

Fixing VHR

Another reason to review your vehicle’s VHR regularly is the time and work involved in fixing these errors and inaccuracies. Carfax and Autocheck both have easy web forms you can fill out if you find a fault with your VHR, but it’s not as simple (or as quick) as filling in a form and it’s almost impossible to find a phone number to talk to to nobody. You will also need to provide some evidence that the VHR is at fault, which may include things like

  • Competing VHR – for example, if the Carfax report has an error that is not reflected in the Autocheck report, paying for the second VHR may be worth it. They cost $25 to $40.

  • Police report or other documentary evidence of an accident that contradicts the details in the VHR.

  • Inspection carried out by a reputable mechanic or dealer who certifies the absence of damage.

Carfax and Autocheck say they’ll respond to disputes within a few days, but there’s no guarantee it’ll be that efficient. You may be asked to provide even more documents, or you may not hear back from them at all – if you’ve ever disputed something on your credit report, you know how long it can take and how frustrating it can be.

And that delay can cost you dearly if you’re trying to sell or trade in a car. Delays can affect financing if you’ve locked in an interest rate and have all kinds of ripple effects in your financial life, so it’s much better to resolve any VHR discrepancies when you’re no the sale of the vehicle and you can approach the problem calmly and at your own pace.

Vehicle history reports are useful tools when buying a car, but ensuring their accuracy is often up to the vehicle owner. If you want to avoid unnecessary delays and problems getting your vehicle’s full value, download your VHR today and make sure it’s accurate.

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