Vehicle History Check
Enter the VIN number of the used car to unlock its full history report.
Approved NMVTIS Data Provider
Purchasing a used car can be cost-effective. But the sources of the used cars are so various and random, most people can only count on the dealer’s reputation to avoid frauds or hidden problems. What are the things you can do yourself to guarantee a worthy purchase? This post provides you with the full checklist for buying a used vehicle.
Table of contents
1. Choose a car with CPO
CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) is a certification program issued by vehicle manufacturers. Basically a used car with CPO proves the car to be of high quality with a clean history. Different manufacturer set up different standards and service packages for their own CPO programs. But normally the line draws at a vehicle that’s within 5 years of age and under 75,000 miles.
When you check the vehicle offline, you can find the CPO logo on the window stickers. But it’s suggested to study the manufacturer’s CPO program policies of your chosen car beforehand and identify the CPO carefully. Some dealers would use their private certification to mislead you into believing the car is officially inspected and approved, just to sell their vehicles for a better price.
2. Run a vehicle history check
CPO is all good but leads to a palpable higher price. If you only seek for a good price and don’t care about buying an older car, it’s important to do your own research before inspecting your chosen car on the spot. And of course, even if you select a car with CPO, you can never be too careful to double check its validity.
What are we looking for in this step?
- MSRP and market value
- Ownership records
- Recalls and Title check
- Insurance and warranty
- Accident and theft report
- Vehicle specs in record
Below are the methods we tested to find authentic records on all these things.
BeenVerified – Versatile vehicle & people search
BeenVerified is a versatile people search tool that features vehicle search. It’s NMVTIS approved and grabs data both from governments and industry top sources to locate the up-to-date information on the car you search. Apart from the points listed above, it also offers the vehicle photos and detailed safety records for components and systems.
1) Open the vehicle search page of BeenVerified.
2) Enter the VIN number or license plate of the used car and click SEARCH.
3) Wait a few seconds for BeenVerified to search its database. Then you’ll get a report listing available safety records and detailed cost and market records of the vehicle you’re to purchase.
4) You can download the PDF or turn on the monitor to receive updates as preparation for your on-spot check.
Bumper – $ 1 for unlimited vehicle reports
Bumper is a professional tool for investigating vehicle histories. It’s also in the list of NMVTIS data providers and provides you with 15 categories of information about a vehicle, including all the necessary points listed above like accidents, salvage records and recalls, etc. Moreover, it allows you to search in 3 ways: through VIN number, license plate or year, make and model.
1) Open the Bumper vehicle search page.
2) Select a search type and enter the VIN / license plate / year, make and model you get, and click SEARCH.
3) Wait until Bumper returns you the report. In the 15 categories you can explore all the information about the used car that you care for.
3. Detect computer problems with OBD2 scanner
When you made sure that there’s nothing wrong with the vehicle’s history, you may make your appointment to finish the deal offline. But before offering your money and picking up the car, it’s very important to check the car again on spot, in case there’re problems not showing in the history report or in the online descriptions.
First thing you can do is to buy an OBD2 scanner. It can decode the computer system of the used car. If there’s any problem in the systems, there should be recorded codes left for investigation.
Open the door and look under the driver’s seat. The scanner port usually lies beside the brake pedal. Just plug in the scanner and start the car, then check your phone if any codes appear in the app. The best situation is when no codes appear.
4. Inspect the critical parts
Critical parts that you can inspect by yourself are the engine, the oil tank and so on, basically the components in the hood.
As you’ve started the car for the computer scan, make sure to look at the dash board and see if the “check the engine” light is on. That could be a serious condition, when you don’t even need to consider doing the rest of your check and decide to refuse the deal.
Ask the seller to start and rev the car for you and check the exhaust pipe. If blue smoke pumps out, it might be signs of major problems in the piston ring.
Keep the engine running and warm it up, now open the hood and see if the engine vibrate significantly. Open the oil cap and see if white and yellow cream gathers on the inside of the cap. When that shows up, don’t consider buying this car. If not, use your hand to feel if there’s air pressure through the opening. Strong pulses felt can also mean the engine is worn out.
Cooling system & master cylinder
Shut the car and wait for the hood to cool down. Open the cap of the cooling tank to see the coolant color. It should appear bright. And check if the coolant is filled properly over the minimum line. Check the master cylinder beside it also for the liquid fill.
Open the power steering reservoir and check the liquid on the cap with a piece of tissue. It should also be bright and show no dark specks.
Feel all the hoses in the hood to see if the rubber gets crispy and even shows rifts. Examine the tires carefully for its elasticity and hidden holes.
5. Examine the exterior & interior
After the major parts that could decide if the used car is worth it, you can now look into minor details like the exterior and the interior. Below in the table are the points you should pay attention to. If problems show up in any of these areas, check if there’s relevant record in the history report or ask the seller about them.
|Scratches and dents||Wear and tear in the upholstery|
|Flexibility and tightness of the doors, hood and trunk||Adjustment of seats and belts|
|Overspray or mismatched paint||Fluid leaks under carpets|
|Flatness of the body panels||Strange or pungent smell|
|Fluid leaks in the hood and underneath||Pedals|
6. Go for a test drive
When you come to this step, it means you’re overall satisfied with the vehicle you’re buying. Now just go out with the car for a drive. Make sure the route you take include different speed requirements and turns. Don’t forget to test the wipers as well.
Generally in the test drive, you should feel the steering wheel and the pedals, see if they’re loosen and if they response quickly enough. Keep your ears open and listen to the unpleasant noises, like significant tapping or clicking sounds. After the drive, check the tires again.
Our checking list help you avoid the major problems that should raise your alarm but might be hidden in a used car. When you go through our list properly and the vehicle has won points on all the items, the deal is basically good to go. Hope you find this post helpful.