The vehicle history report (VHR) is an important weapon in the used car buyer’s arsenal.
The VHR will tell you important information about the used car, like the number of previous owners, maintenance history and accident history. You can purchase them on a one by one basis, subscribe for a limited time, or even get it for free from the dealer. Popular VHR providers include Carfax and AutoCheck.
However, when checking for accidents, you must be careful with “false negatives.” That is when the VHR falsely indicates that there were no accidents. The VHR companies do their best to aggregate the information out there, but they can’t always get it all and many times the information just isn’t out there.
Without a doubt, many accidents are never reported. The car could be repaired out-of-pocket (i.e. not through insurance) at a local shop that doesn’t report repairs. Or sometimes, even if paid for by insurance, the accident still never makes it to the VHR. There are plenty of cars, repaired at legitimate, top end body shops, that have accident free VHRs.
The danger lies in the cars that were in big accidents, never repaired properly or just cosmetically, that are picked up by unscrupulous dealers. They specifically target cars with “false negative” VHRs. They know they can buy them cheap because all the insiders know it is an accident car. But they also know that they can cheat unsuspecting car buyers by pointing out the “clean” VHR, selling the car as accident free. Many shady dealers practice this tactic because it is so profitable. They get away with it because people believe the VHRs are telling the truth.
Well, VHRs are telling the truth but not necessarily the whole truth. The VHR “doesn’t know what it doesn’t know!” Go ahead and use the VHRs to check for issues. Reported issues, like accidents, are most likely correct. But just don’t expect them to have all the information. An accident free VHR may be a “false negative.”
Get the car checked. It’s the best way to check for accidents.