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A car history report may reveal severe issues or concerns with a car you want to buy. You will need access to the best car history report to avoid such issues.

Checking the vehicle's history record might offer you a clearer picture of what the vehicle has gone through and what to expect in the future. This is critical information for anybody considering purchasing a used or certified pre-owned car to avoid costly problems.

When buying a used car, regardless of how much research you perform, you ought to have the car history report in your hands before making a decision. Carfax and AutoCheck are by far the best car history reports, and we recommend them over anything else, even if alternatives are less expensive.

It is worth it to pay a little extra for Carfax and AutoCheck to receive the most accurate information about a car before you purchase it. However, you will still need to make a decision regarding which one of Carfax and AutoCheck to use for your purchase. This can be tricky because the two-car history reports are pretty much equal in terms of utility. We'll take a deeper look at both AutoCheck and Carfax below to help you determine which of these two options is best for you.

The best car history reports will reveal everything you need to know about a vehicle's history. Our research will help you decide between the two best car history reports available today. You can trust the information provided below as it is based on extensive research spanning over 15 hours on authoritative sites related to car history reports.

Table of Contents

What Does the Best Car History Report Include?

Car history reports have become a necessary aspect of each used-car transaction. They're one of the finest ways to learn about a vehicle's history and make your search for a used automobile go much more smoothly.

The report also informs buyers if a vehicle has a "branded" title. It refers to a title that due to an accident, water damage, or another catastrophic incident, an insurance company has deemed the car a total loss and issued it a salvage title. Here's a quick rundown of some of the data contained in the best car history report.

Salvage Title

If a vehicle has been in a major accident, fire, or flooding and has been declared a complete loss by the insurance company, it may still be drivable. The insurance firm will, however, give it a "salvage title" to warn potential buyers.

In most circumstances, you should avoid cars with salvage titles since they have a low market value and may still have hidden issues.


Serious accidents are recorded with the insurance company and are likely to appear on the car history report. Minor mishaps are occasionally included in the list. So don't assume that every accident is a reason to rule out a vehicle that is otherwise in good condition.

The car history report will reveal whether or not the car has ever been in an accident. It will also reveal whether the airbags have ever been used. Check the historical record for any flood or fire damage, as well. Review to see if any repairs were made to address any issues.

Odometer Rollbacks

To maximize the car's selling price, dishonest car lots may reset the odometer. This scam is flagged in history reports.

This is a critical number to keep track of at all times. It displays the distance traveled by the vehicle. It's important to consider the vehicle if you see an average of 5000-10,000 miles each year. It's better to avoid a vehicle that's just a year or two old but has a lot of miles on it (30,000+, for instance) if the report shows it.

Number of Owners and How It Was Used

It's pleasant to imagine that the car you're looking at was just driven to church on Sunday by an elderly lady. However, it's possible that it was a rented vehicle or even utilized as a taxi. If you get the report, you'll be able to see when it changed hands for sure.

Previous ownership details should be included in each car history report. It's a red flag if you notice an automobile that's 2 or 3 years old yet has had five or six owners. You should try to find an automobile that has only had one previous owner.

Maintenance and care are crucial aspects of car ownership, but if the vehicle has been through several owners, it may not be getting the attention it requires.

Maintenance Records

Service visits are often listed on the car history report, indicating routine maintenance or repairs conducted by a professional. This would be the most likely scenario if the vehicle was serviced at a dealer instead of a private garage.

The maintenance history will be included in the car history report. You'll be able to see what's been fixed and how often the automobile has been serviced. This can help you determine how much you should set aside for short-term maintenance such as oil changes, as well as long-term maintenance such as new tires.

Recall Information

This is valuable information. However, it can be found on other websites for free.

Is Carfax The Best Car History Report?

Almost everyone has seen their advertising. "Show me the Carfax," says the commercial. The adverts make it appear as if Carfax can tell you every tiny detail about a vehicle's history since it was first driven off the assembly line. While there are some drawbacks, Carfax is an excellent service.

It gathers data from a variety of sources to present the most complete picture possible. All of the below sources of information are commonly used by Carfax:

  • Companies that import and export automobiles
  • Automobile agencies can be present throughout the U.S and Canada.
  • Manufacturers and dealers
  • Insurance companies
  • Collision repair shops and other car maintenance facilities
  • Car auctions
  • Fire agencies
  • Law enforcement agencies like police departments
  • Auto recyclers and salvage auctions

All of this information is put into a single report, providing you with a complete picture of what Carfax discovered. This is why you can view everything, including title changes, recalls, theft records, odometer readings, maintenance, and accidents.

Gathering data from all of these sources should presumably be able to tell you almost all you need to know about a car.

However, as previously said, humans are sometimes able to conceal information. Someone may get into a minor collision and then cover that up with some do-it-yourself auto repairs. They might be able to take it to a friend who is an auto mechanic and get a workaround off the records.

People frequently try to conceal information because they don't want their insurance to increase or are concerned that it will reduce the worth of their vehicle. Even if incidents in a car's history can be hidden, Carfax will usually be able to find most (if not all) key incidents.

Carfax is the most well-known automobile history service for a reason. They've been doing it for decades, starting with faxing reports to their clients. A single Carfax report will set you back $39.99. Alternatively, 3 for $59.99 or six for $99.99 are available. If you're looking at a lot of used automobiles and want to know more about each one, these savings for multiple reports come in handy.

Carfax is the most expensive option at this price. It is, nevertheless, the most thorough and easiest to comprehend. Consumer Reports and Edmunds have investigated several other vehicle history firms and discovered that Carfax provides the finest and most reliable information.

The Carfax report, while being the most expensive option, is the gold standard for all other car history reports. It was the most complete and user-friendly among the car history reports we investigated. Multiple owners are properly noted and categorized in various sections if a car has had multiple owners.

Carfax is also the sole report that includes maintenance dates and documents, assuming the vehicle was taken to a service center that shares its data, which is often a franchised dealership service center.

This information can be used to determine what problems the car may have had. It's also a sign that the previous owner looked after the vehicle well.

When you consider the cost of a used automobile, the extra cost of a Carfax report is well worth it if you want to make sure you're getting a good deal.

Is AutoCheck The Best Car History Report?

The most popular aspect of AutoCheck, which is owned by Experian, is that it delivers a car score. This score is intended to make comparing this car to others from the same year particularly simple. Unfortunately, the number is not as simple to comprehend as you might assume, as it does not appear to follow a logical 0-100 range.

You might, for instance, run a study and discover that the car you're looking at has a score in the mid-80s. If you assume that the scores range from 0-100 based on predicted quality, you'd think this is a decent score. However, this is where things become perplexing:

  • That car's typical range could be in the 30s or 40s. In such instance, a score in the 80s for your automobile would be excellent.
  • A normal range for that car, on the other hand, may be in the high 80s or low 90s, so your rating in the mid-80s is actually below average and could indicate major vehicle issues.
  • Worse, the statistics aren't always explained well, so you might not understand why your car's score is higher or lower than the average for similar vehicles.

Even if the car score isn't as useful as it appears to be, it may still be useful if you're comparing several cars that are the same brand, model, and year. Otherwise, we suggest disregarding the score for the most part and focusing on the rest of your report's information. Another advantage of AutoCheck is that it is less expensive than Carfax.

A single report from AutoCheck costs $24.99. However, few individuals look for only one used automobile, so you'd probably go for the $49.99 higher-tier package, which allows you access to 25 reports in 21 days. Finally, the highest plan, which costs $99.99, includes 300 reports for 21 days. AutoCheck used to charge that for infinite reports.

Carfax vs. AutoCheck: Which Is The Best Car History Report?

Carfax is expensive, but it's well worth it because it provides the most complete and user-friendly reports. For many people, obtaining a good used car starts with a clean Carfax report.

AutoCheck is worth a check, even if it doesn't have the same name recognition as Carfax. It's a less expensive option for customers who expect to conduct multiple reports. The car score is useful as a fast reference, but don't rely on it too much.

All things considered, Carfax appears to be a better option than AutoCheck. When compared to AutoCheck, it is more costly because it has better brand recognition and more people are aware of it. It's also more costly because it can provide drivers with more data and greater precision. Pay a few additional bucks for Carfax if you want to acquire the greatest vehicle history report possible.

If your budget is tight and you're thinking of skipping the history report, AutoCheck is a better option. Although AutoCheck isn't quite as comprehensive as Carfax, it's still preferable to nothing. Other reports are available, but we do not recommend them.

Some persons, for instance, rely on information from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The average cost of these assessments is around $10, and even that may be a waste of money. Some of the assessments are free, so it's not a bad idea to take a look. You may well be able to figure out if your car has a branded title or use it as a secondary history record with NMVTIS, but we'd suggest saving your money for AutoCheck or, better still, Carfax.

Is It Possible to Get a Car History Report for Free?

You can do some free investigation on your own. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may be able to search up the vehicle's VIN to determine whether there are any open recalls.

Free online VIN decoders can also provide you with some basic information, such as where your car was manufactured and other general statistics, but the information won't be nearly as beneficial as a thorough vehicle history record.

You'll have to ask the dealer for assistance if you want a solid auto history report without having to pay for it yourself. Carfax or AutoCheck are used by the majority of large dealerships. You can request a free copy of the report from the dealer.

If a dealer does not offer car history reports for pre-owned vehicles or utilizes a provider other than AutoCheck or Carfax, this could be a red sign. Finally, anyone who resells you a used car without first running a history report should be avoided.

Best Car History Report

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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