For any car made since 1981, there is a detailed repair and damage history available from a company called Carfax. A Carfax report lists a number of things about a vehicle’s history that are associated with the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the vehicle. This is especially useful for those looking to buy a used car. Usually, obtaining a Carfax report costs money - but there is a way to get one completely free.
Part 1 of 2: What is a Carfax?
A Carfax is a record and history of your exact vehicle, chronicling its life from manufacturer to today. By bringing up any reports of accidents or repairs associated with the VIN number for that particular vehicle, the whole history can be revealed in a concise format. Many consider to be worth the cost of purchasing the report.
What does a Carfax include?
Owner history: Records of who owned the car and when they owned it can say a lot about how the car was cared for. It will also line up the dates that repairs or accidents took place with who owned the car at the time.
Accidental damage: Anything from a fender bender to a serious accident will show up here. Structural damage will almost always lower the value of a vehicle.
Service records: Services that were done professionally will show up with these results, showing how often the car was in the shop for repairs and how often routine services were being done.
Mileage/odometer readings: The odometer in the car can be replaced or modified to read a lower amount of miles, but seeing the service history can reveal how many miles are really on the vehicle, or at least on the chassis.
Warranty/manufacturer recall: Any big warranty problems or recalls will pop up, and this could be a big plus for a potential buyer. Sometimes recalls can perform major repairs for free, and it is important to check the service history to see if the recall was done on the vehicle already.
Part 2 of 2: Where can you get a Carfax for free?
By going onto the Carfax website, someone can simply buy the carfax report for the vehicle they are looking to buy or currently own by entering the VIN number and finding the report. A report costs money but, luckily, there is one really simple way to get one for free:
Find a dealership with a subscription to Carfax reports and get a report on any used vehicle they have that you are interested in. There is a search function on the Carfax website that allows customers to look up their area’s used car dealerships with a Carfax subscription. There are several ways to go about obtaining a Carfax report this way:
Step 1: Call ahead. Before going to a used car dealership to browse their selection of vehicles, call ahead and ask if they offer a free Carfax report with any of their cars. Calling ahead is better than asking in person because they will be inclined to try and incentivize you to come and check out the cars. Also, calling ahead makes them more inclined to think that you’re going to purchase a car.
If they do offer a report for free, simply tell the salesperson or representative working at the dealership to get the report once you find a vehicle that fits your criteria.
If they do not, then they may offer to reimburse you for a report you purchase yourself.
Step 2: Visit the dealership site. Any dealership that has a subscription to Carfax reports and has its inventory of cars listed online along with the VIN can be a free source of a Carfax report.
Often, customers can just go to the website of that particular dealership and get a free report.
*Step 3: Look up dealership cars on Carfax. Through the Carfax website, customers can look up vehicles that are relatively close to them in dealerships with a Carfax subscription.
Carfax lists these vehicles in a format similar to classified ads, and there is a button with every car that will show the Carfax report for that car. Simply click this button and view the report for the vehicle.
A free Carfax report is a big advantage to those shopping at used car dealerships. A Carfax report is worth the price if the vehicle’s cost is significant, but keep in mind that the report will not show any home repairs or modifications done to the vehicle. Because of this, particularly cheap or old cars may not benefit that much from a report - so it’s better to obtain a free report if possible.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Get a Free Carfax and was authored by Olivia Marsh.