Some vehicle history reports contain a lot of information about a particular vehicle.
By just entering a vehicle’s VIN, you can gain a ton of insight into the car’s past.
When you’re buying a used car, this kind of information is crucial in order to protect yourself from a bad deal.
If you’ve never ordered a vehicle history report before, all the information you get back might seem a little overwhelming.
This page will provide you with an overview of the meanings of the different terms you may find on your vehicle history report.
What are 3 important things a vehicle history report can tell you?
The 3 most important things you’ll find on a vehicle history report include:
- Odometer status and history.
- Title brands and records.
- Total loss and stolen vehicle reports.
These 3 areas are things you’ll want to pay attention to when looking at a vehicle history report.
If the car has an odometer discrepancy, it may not be in the condition that the owner claims it to be.
If there is a history of many previous owners or brands listed on the title, that could also be a red flag.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure the used car you’re buying has not been deemed a total loss or that it was ever stolen.
We’ll get into more of the definitions and title brands you may see on a vehicle history report below.
What should I look for in a vehicle history report?
When you’re shopping for a used car, you’ll be hoping for a “clean” vehicle history report.
A report that comes back clean essentially means that there are no records of issues with the vehicle in any of the databases that were referenced.
Beyond that, you should use a vehicle history report to make sure that the vehicle you’re buying matches what the seller is describing.
You’ll be looking for any data that might make you reconsider buying the car.
For example, if the car was previously used as a taxi, it may have more wear than a car that had a single previous owner and was just used for getting around town.
You’ll also want to make sure that the vehicle has never experienced any major damage or has been listed as junk, salvage, or total loss. While you may be able to get it for cheap, the hassle is often not worth it.
Meaning of Information on a Vehicle History Report
Let’s get into the different meanings behind some of the things you’ll find on your vehicle history report.
One section on the vehicle history report will typically include the vehicle’s specs by VIN.
If you’re interested, you can get this type of information for free using our free VIN decoder.
The VIN contains a lot of information about the vehicle’s origins, specs, and features.
In this section, you’ll typically see:
- The vehicle’s year, make, and model.
- Trim, styling, and series data.
- Where the vehicle was manufactured.
- Engine and transmission specs.
- Dimensions and weight of the vehicle.
- Safety features.
- Additional features.
This section can be useful to confirm that the vehicle is what the seller says it is. It can also be used to learn about the specific details and features that came standard with the car.
Title Ownership Records
The title record section of a vehicle history report will list the different states where the vehicle has been titled.
If there are multiple title records, the report will show the date when the record was found and the state in which the title was held.
You should also be able to see if there are any lienholders for the vehicle’s title.
Odometer Readings and Status
The odometer information contained in a vehicle history report will tell you:
- The current and historical mileage recorded at certain events for the vehicle.
- The status of the odometer.
You’ll want to use the mileage information to make sure there are no discrepancies in the odometer readings.
This will quickly allow you to see if:
- The odometer has rolled over.
- The odometer has been tampered with.
- The actual mileage is accurate or not.
Junk, Salvage, Total Loss, and Accident Records
Every vehicle history report should include a section that will tell you if the vehicle has ever been listed as junk, salvage, or a total loss.
In the event of a major accident, the insurance company will determine whether or not the vehicle can be repaired.
This section will let you know if that has ever happened, as well as when and where this occurred.
Another key piece of information you’ll find on a vehicle history report is whether or not the vehicle has ever been stolen and/or stolen and recovered.
Stolen vehicles may have excess damage or missing components that you’ll need to be aware of.
Another important section on a vehicle history report is the title check or title brand section.
In this section, the report will check the vehicle’s VIN for any brands that have been placed on the title.
These brands can be useful in determining what the vehicle was previously used for, what kind of damage it may have, or what sort of repairs it may have undergone.
There are a variety of different types of title brands. Learn more about it: What is a Branded Title?