Guide to Vehicle History Reports

A vehicle history report is a useful document whenever you are buying or selling a vehicle. 

Official vehicle history reports collect data from multiple sources to provide you with a full view into a vehicle’s past and any potential red flags that it may have. 

This page will explain what a vehicle history report is, what you’ll find on it, where to order one, and how to interpret the information. 

Other pages in the section will cover some of these topics in more depth. 

If you’re interested in getting some specs on the vehicle, our free VIN decoder is a great place to start. 

What is the Difference between a VIN Lookup and a Vehicle History Report?

First things first – what’s the difference between a VIN lookup or VIN decoder and a Vehicle History Report or VIN Check?

Well, there are a few main differences including:

  • The information they’ll contain.
  • How you can use them. 
  • How much they cost. 
  • Information you’ll need to provide to get them. 

Or a very simplified explanation, a VIN lookup can be performed for free, and you can get results instantly. 

This can be useful for finding a vehicle’s specs, finding the right parts, learning where the vehicle was made, checking if a vehicle is reported as stolen, and some other useful pieces of information. 

You can check things like this right here at!

On the other hand, a vehicle history report, sometimes referred to as a VIN check, contains a wider range of information such as title history, title status, accident history, and more. 

If you want to get one of these for yourself, these types of reports will typically cost money, or at the very least, require you to enter your email address or register for an account. 

Below, we’ll show you the best providers of vehicle history reports. 

What is a Vehicle History Report?

A vehicle history report is a document that contains unique information about a specific vehicle’s past. 

Depending on the provider, the VHR will contain data from a number of different sources to create a unique snapshot of each vehicle in the database. 

A vehicle’s VIN is the unique key that ties all the different data sources together in order to compile a vehicle history report. 

The only thing you need to order a vehicle history report is the VIN.

If you’re buying a used vehicle, a vehicle history report is one of the key documents you should examine before you make your purchase decision. 

If you’re selling your vehicle, a vehicle history report can be useful to find out how to get the best price for it.

Knowing everything about the vehicle upfront gives both the buyer and the seller a better bargaining position. 

Vehicle History Report Providers

There are a variety of places where you can obtain a vehicle history report. 

However, there’s one shared aspect between all of the top providers that you’ll want to check for first. 

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is a nationwide public resource that tracks vehicle data across most states. 

NMVTIS-approved vehicle history report providers will have access to the key data that the NMVTIS database contains. 

You can be confident that these reports will contain any pertinent information about a vehicle’s title, ownership history, and major insurance claims affecting the title

That information is a key foundation to any used vehicle purchased. 

After that, different providers may also compile data from other sources to give you a more complete picture of a specific vehicle. 

Approved NMVTIS vehicle history report providers include:

How Much Does a Vehicle History Report Cost?

Review the table below for an overview of the cost of a report from each consumer-authorized provider.

VHR ProviderPricing Model$8 to $20 per month for a monthly membership$16.67 to $39.99 per report for package deals
Carsforsale.comFree with an account$15.99 to $21.32 per report$3.50 per report$10.99 for 1 report, $21.98 for 3, $28.99 for 5$9.98 per report$9.99 per report$9.99 to $4.99 per report for package deals$14.99 for 1 report, $25.17 for 4 reports, $86.34 for 16 reports$8.95 per report with bulk discounts available

You can also make a request to the state DMV where the title is held for a vehicle history report. Fees and requirements vary by state. 

What Information is on a Vehicle History Report?

Depending on where you order a vehicle history report, you can find a variety of data. 

All NMVTIS vehicle history reports will include:

  • Which state the current title is held in.
  • The last titling date.
  • Existing brands on the title. 
  • Odometer reading and disclosures about any odometer discrepancies.
  • Whether or not the vehicle has been listed as a total loss.
  • If the vehicle has a salvage history. 

Other data sources may provide additional information, such as:

  • Vehicle specs.
  • Pricing history, estimates, and projections. 
  • Mileage comparisons for similar vehicles. 
  • Active and past recalls.
  • Theft records. 
  • Accident history.

Where Does Vehicle History Report Information Come From?

Different vehicle history report providers may use different data sources to create each report. 

However, all of them typically use a mix of:

  • Government agencies.
  • Motor Vehicle Titling Agencies (DMVs).
  • Insurance companies. 
  • Salvage yards.
  • Junk yards.
  • Dealerships.
  • Auto Industry Companies. 
  • Manufacturers.

Some of the top data providers for the various vehicle history report companies include:

  • National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). 
  • State Motor Vehicle Agencies (DMV, MVC, MVA, MVD, SOS, etc).
  • Car Insurance Providers.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • National Vehicle Service (NSV).
  • J.D. Power.
  • Nada Guides.
  • U.S. DOT.
  • Kelley Blue Book.
  • Edmunds.

For NMVTIS data contained in the report, those data sources are required by federal law to make regular reports to the agencies as new data on a vehicle comes in. 

What if a Vehicle History Report doesn’t have any information?

There are two primary reasons why there is no information on a particular vehicle.

The first would be that you are trying to run a report on a vehicle that was manufactured before 1981 and doesn’t have a standardized vehicle identification number. 

The VIN is the key that links the different data sources together to provide unique title, ownership, and accident history for a particular vehicle. 

Without a VIN, the particular vehicle may not be in the database. 

The second reason is that the vehicle is “clean” or doesn’t have any glaring issues that are showing up in the database. That’s a good thing!

In general, a shorter report is going to be better than a vehicle history report with lots of data. 

How Often is the Data in a Vehicle History Report Updated?

Most data sources, especially the ones that are federally mandated to report, are updated in real time or once per day

As new data on a particular vehicle is recorded, the database gets updated and the information will be reflected on a vehicle history report within a few days at the most. 

How to Read a Vehicle History Report

Before we get into this section, we should remind you that you should never decide to purchase a vehicle based on the information in the vehicle history report alone.

Use the information in a VHR along with a visual inspection, conversation with the seller, and possibly a test drive to make sure it’s the right vehicle for you. 

Depending on where you order your vehicle history report, the information may be structured a little differently. However, most of them will contain the following sections or types of information:

  • Basic Vehicle Specifications and Information.
  • Title and Ownership Information. 
  • Title Brands.
  • Odometer Details. 
  • Junk and Salvage Information. 
  • Insurance and Accident History. 
  • Pricing Details and Market Value.
  • Theft Information. 
  • Active and Past Recalls.
  • Warranty Information.
  • Lienholder details.

The main thing you’re looking for when you order a vehicle history report is any red flags that the seller may not have disclosed to you, or possibly not know about themselves if they bought the vehicle used. 

Some of the top red flags to watch out for in your vehicle history report include:

  • Odometer discrepancies. 
  • Theft records.
  • Total loss or salvage title brands. 
  • A high number of previous owners. 
  • Major accidents reported. 
  • Flood damage. 

Basic Vehicle Specifications and Information

The first thing that a vehicle history report (or a VIN lookup) can tell you is basic information and vehicle specs. 

This section will include things like:

  • Year, make, model of the vehicle. 
  • Trim and styling. 
  • Additional features that came with the vehicle. 
  • Safety ratings. 

Title and Ownership Information

Next, every vehicle history report will contain information about the vehicle’s title and ownership history. 

You’ll be able to see where the title is held and how many times the vehicle has changed owners. 

You’ll also see if the title has changed states over time. 

Title Brands

Title information will also include any title brands. 

A title brand is used by state agencies to report significant details about a vehicle’s history. 

Common brands include:

  • Total loss.
  • Salvage.
  • Bonded.
  • Flood damage.
  • Cash for Clunkers.
  • Gray Market vehicle.
  • Junked vehicle. 
  • New/Re-issued VIN.
  • Rebuilt/Reconstructed.
  • Dismantled.
  • Rental vehicle.
  • Taxi.
  • Police vehicle. 

Odometer Details

The odometer section will include the vehicle’s reported mileage as well as any odometer discrepancies. 

An odometer discrepancies describes a situation in which the mileage reported does not reflect the vehicle’s actual mileage.

You’ll want to avoid anything with an odometer rollback in most cases.  

Junk and Salvage Information 

This section will report on whether or not the vehicle has been received by a junk or salvage yard to be resold. 

Insurance and Accident History

Insurance companies report to the NMVTIS when there are major accident claims for a particular vehicle. 

Depending on the nature of the accident and the type of repair, this may be a reason to walk away. 

Pricing Details and Market Value

Many reports will typically provide data on the current market value or trade-in price of the vehicle. 

This can be valuable information for both the buyer and the seller to get the best deal. 

Some reports may even include the estimated cost of owning the particular vehicle overtime by providing data on things like:

  • Insurance policies. 
  • Fuel costs.
  • Maintenance.

Theft Information

Most vehicle history reports will also contain information on whether a vehicle is currently listed as stolen or has been reported as stolen and recovered in the past. 

A stolen vehicle can significantly lower its value. 

Active and Past Recalls

Recall information will typically inform you of any past or active recalls on a particular vehicle, and whether or not the issue has been serviced. 

Warranty Information

Many reports will also contain information on manufacturer warranties for a particular vehicle. 

These warranties typically cover major components of the vehicles and come with a time or mileage limit. 

Lienholder Details

A vehicle history report will also list any reported lien information. If there is an open lien on a vehicle, the finance company will need to be involved in any sale or transfer. 

Other Details

Depending on where you order the report, you may also find things like:

  • Prior for sale listing. 
  • Auction information. 
  • Maintenance history. 
  • Photos of the vehicle.

The bottom line is that it pays to be informed before you buy a used vehicle. 

Ordering a vehicle history report is one of the best ways to protect yourself from a bad deal or from purchasing a potentially dangerous car. 

And, if you’re selling your vehicle, providing the buyer with vehicle history information up-front is a great way to get the most money for your car. 

Whenever you want to buy or sell a used car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle, be sure to visit for our catalogue of free resources and information to make buying, selling, and owning a vehicle that much easier.