If you happen to watch TV, you’ve surely seen the commercials: an animated fox promising to save you from accidentally purchasing a lemon during your next car-buying excursion. All you have to say is “Show me the Carfax!” and you’re good, right?
Not necessarily. There’s a lot more that goes into keeping track of a vehicle’s unique history — and a lot of reasons why it should be the practice of every vehicle owner to play an active role in maintaining their records.
Today we’re taking a look at vehicle history reports and diving into the top five reasons it pays — literally — to track your vehicle’s history.
Learn more about CarrChain, the newest way to track vehicle history, here.
How is a Vehicle's History Tracked?
Just like your driver’s license number or your social security number links certain activities to you as an individual, your vehicle’s history is linked to it by its unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
This 17-digit code is what numerous data sources use to log key events in a vehicle’s lifespan in order to make sure interested parties can effectively track its history. While not every single event will be logged using traditional vehicle history reports (VHR) like Carfax, a standard VHR should at least include enough information to assess the car’s suitability for your purposes accurately.
Vehicle history report providers gather data from many different sources like:
What kind of information is contained in a Vehicle History Report (VHR)?
A typical vehicle history report will include significant events that occur over the lifespan of a car. This can include accidents, title transfers, recalls, and more.
When you run a vehicle history report, you can expect to find:
A VHR should be able to tell you whether a vehicle is being maintained in a way that meets recommended service intervals. You’ll also gain insight into how frequently a vehicle received basic services like oil changes and filter replacements. However, this information is notoriously unreliable since many service stations don’t always report such routine maintenance.
Rolling back a vehicle’s odometer is one of the oldest tricks in the book for making a used car seem a bit less, well, used. Fortunately, it’s not as common as it once was. Still, a vehicle history report should be able to inform you of the vehicle’s real mileage. If there’s a discrepancy, it might be best to pass that too-good-to-be-true offer up.
The more owners a vehicle has, the more variations in the regularity of service are likely. While multiple owners aren’t always bad, it’s usually preferable to keep this number on the low end. For one, it’s much easier to keep track of how well a vehicle was maintained when you’re only dealing with a single owner.
Either way, your vehicle history report should tell you how many owners your vehicle had, where they were located, and how they used their car. This information can tell you a lot about your car’s likely condition and help you make decisions accordingly.
Your vehicle’s title can tell you a lot about it. Beyond simply informing would-be buyers of how many times a vehicle was sold or registered and where, you’ll also be able to see if a vehicle’s title is branded, meaning it has a special designation.
This can include branded titles that indicate that the vehicle was salvaged, had flood, fire, or hail damage, or whether it was used as a police or taxi vehicle.
This is one of the most common reasons buyers choose to pull a vehicle history report. When purchasing a new-to-you vehicle, you obviously want to know whether that vehicle has suffered any major damage.
While a vehicle history report might not tell you the whole story on things like fender-benders, you’ll be able to get a sense of whether your car was involved in any major collisions or if the car suffered extensive damage at any point.
Many states require regular inspections at licensed inspection stations. Your vehicle’s history report should include a history of those inspections, as well as the results.
You’ll want to be on the lookout for gaps in registration history, for example, since that can indicate that the car was either stolen, abandoned, or going through major reconstruction — all significant red flags.
While there are plenty of ways to find out if your vehicle has any open recalls, such as the recall alerts issued by dealerships, those are all too often ignored. A vehicle history report will show all open recalls and should also disclose whether the necessary repairs were made.
5 Reasons it Pays to Track Your Vehicle's History
Tracking your vehicle history brings significant benefits to you both as a vehicle owner as well as when it comes time to sell to a dealership or individual. Here are our top five reasons you should consider tracking your vehicle history — above and beyond what your average Vehicle History Report might include.
1. Increase Your Vehicle's Resale Value
When the time comes to sell or trade-in your vehicle, having a comprehensive history of your car’s lifespan can boost its resale value significantly. Not every buyer will ask for a VHR. They can, of course, purchase one themselves using your vehicle’s VIN. Still, those reports don’t always include day-to-day maintenance like oil changes.
Providing a complete vehicle history showing how well your vehicle has been cared for upfront to your potential buyer can help you fetch top dollar on the used car market.
Even if you don’t plan to offer a VHR up-front, you’d be wise to check it yourself before rolling into the dealership for a trade. There may be recalls or issues you weren’t aware of, and that can have a significant (negative) impact on your car’s trade-in value.
2. Keep Track of Key Maintenance Dates (and Lower Your Vehicle's Maintenance Cost)
Every vehicle comes with a recommended maintenance schedule direct from the manufacturer. Unfortunately, unless you happen to be a pro at keeping up with your calendar, it’s all too easy to simply forget when you’re supposed to take your vehicle in for service.
Keeping meticulous track of your car’s service history can help you stay on top of when that next service is due. That, in turn, can save you money in the long run by helping you avoid costly repairs when something goes wrong.
3. Stay Safe by Staying on Top of Recalls
Recalls happen, especially as technology advances and new features are added to vehicles rolling off the production line. Usually, you’ll receive a postcard in the mail alerting you if a recall is in effect. Still, those are easy to toss out with the junk mail inadvertently.
Viewing your vehicle’s history report will not only help keep you safe by keeping you in the loop, but since the manufacturer frequently covers recall repair costs, you’ll also save money when it comes time to fix that faulty part.
4. Ensure You're Paying a Fair Price When Purchasing a Car
Tracking vehicle history is not only beneficial to the vehicle’s owner; it’s also essential when purchasing a new car. While you can’t always be sure you’re getting the complete picture from a vehicle history report (unless you happen to be purchasing a vehicle that’s part of CarrChain), having at least some idea of a vehicle’s background can help you make sure you’re not overpaying for a lemon.
5. Make the Most of Your Vehicle's Warranty
You probably already knew that skipping the recommended service on your vehicle could void your warranty, but did you know that you also need to ensure that your car’s maintenance is being performed to the manufacturer’s specifications? That includes using only manufacturer-approved parts.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to ensure that your vehicle is serviced at an approved dealership. But if you choose to skip the dealership, it’s up to you to make sure the shop uses only approved parts. And, it’s on you to keep track of those records to supply to your warranty provider in the event of a disagreement.
Meticulously Tracking your vehicle’s service history is the only sure-fire way to make sure you’re in compliance with your warranty terms. After all, not every dealership or garage tracks routine maintenance like oil changes and brake service.
How to Start Tracking Your Vehicle's History with CarrChain
Keeping a complete record of your vehicle history has many benefits. Unfortunately, you can’t rely exclusively on mechanics and dealerships reporting, which can be incomplete.
That means it’s up to you to make sure you keep track of your vehicle’s history. Traditionally this meant keeping a glove compartment or filing cabinet stuffed with receipts and records.
Soon, however, vehicle owners will be able to harness blockchain technology’s power to keep a highly detailed record of their vehicle’s history. The best part? This tech-enabled solution is both quick and easy.
Having a blockchain-based repository of vehicle records like CarrChain, which is accessed via a web-based application, means you will now have an easy, secure, and trustworthy way to manage and update your vehicle’s online profile. You’ll be able to easily aggregate maintenance records, registration details, insurance claims, accident reports, and even log simple maintenance activities like oil changes and tire replacements to your vehicle’s own online profile — all while keeping your glove compartment clutter-free.