Owning a Car: What Newbies Need to Know

Is There Really Such A Thing As A Free VIN History Report?

by Avery Ellis

Everybody knows that before you purchase a used car, you should research the VIN history on the car to see how well its previous owners maintained it, whether it has ever been in an accident, and what sort of mileage is on the car. However, you usually have to pay for a complete VIN report that offers all the information associated with the car you are interested in, and these reports can be rather expensive. Is there such a thing as a free VIN history report; and if so, how can you obtain one? These questions and more will be answered in this guide.

Is There Really Such A Thing As A Free VIN History Report?

The short answer to this question is no. On your own, there's technically no way to get a 100% free VIN history report with all of the comprehensive details about your car. If you put in the vehicle's VIN on any of the VIN checker websites, they will give you a bit of an overview of the car's history for free, but if you want to see the full report, you have to pay for it. Why is this the case? Because the Anti-Car Theft Act requires all VIN reporting websites to charge a fee for their services. There's no way for consumers to get around this requirement, as it's the law.

What Sort of Information Will A Limited History Report Offer?

If you don't want to pay for the complete report, you can at least check a little bit of information about your car before you decide to purchase it. In general, you can find out if there is reported accident or recall history, and how many miles the car has. However, in most cases, if you want to learn about the history of the reported accidents and recalls, you will need to pay the site you are using to get the full report.

What Information is Offered On a Full Report?

A comprehensive, paid VIN check will almost always offer you as much information about the car as possible. This will include recall and accident information, whether the car has been reported as a lemon, possible fraud or theft warnings, odometer information, emissions test results, and more.

What About the Free Reports from Car Dealerships?

Free VIN history reports from car dealerships are the only exception to the rule when it comes to obtaining one without paying. However, the dealerships that offer these reports are not breaking the law, because they pay a fee to the VIN reporting agency every month, so the agency is still getting money and thus complying with the Anti-Car Theft Act. Therefore, since the dealership has a membership with the reporting sites, they have already paid the fees and are thus able to print out copies of the VIN report on each car you are interested in without charging you. After all, you aren't initiating the sale of the report, but the dealership is. Since they're the ones paying for it, you don't have to--they usually offer it to you for free when you ask to see it.

In short, the only real way to obtain a truly free VIN history report on a vehicle is to get one directly from the dealership that has the car you are interested in. If you are buying a car from a private party or want to do research on your own before even contacting the dealership or owner, then you will have to pay for it. However, these reports are well-worth the cost, especially if you want to find out whether or not your car is safe to drive, or if it has been reported stolen. Taking the extra time to pay for a comprehensive report, from places like Instavin, means that you will ultimately save money in the long run since you won't have to buy a lemon if you do your homework properly.