Lemon Law Attorneys Blog


Vehicle History Reports

July 15, 2021 by Karl Heil

Vehicle history reports can provide helpful information when deciding whether to buy a used car. It is important, however, to understand the kind of information contained in these reports and their limitations.  Vehicle history reports generally contain information on whether a vehicle was in an accident, whether it sustained other kinds of damage such as flood damage, whether a vehicle was stolen, and whether a vehicle was totaled. If a vehicle has sustained certain kinds of damage, the title may be branded, which means a label such as “junk,” “salvage,” and “flood” is printed on the title. 

The reports also provide odometer information and may reveal odometer discrepancies. In addition, some reports also include the number of previous owners, repair and maintenance histories, and whether a vehicle has been bought back under the lemon law.

The three main vehicle history report providers are CARFAX, AutoCheck, and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). A number of other providers exist as well, including third-party providers that sell the NMVTIS reports to the public.

CARFAX is a private company that produces vehicle history reports.  However, CARFAX does not independently verify the information and the reports contain only information that has been provided to CARFAX voluntarily. All accidents and other forms of damage are not reported to the police, state motor vehicle departments, or insurance companies. There also may be a lag between the reporting of information to CARFAX and the inclusion of that information in a report.  

AutoCheck is a vehicle history report provided by the credit reporting company, Experian. AutoCheck reports have similar limitations, because they will include only information that has been voluntarily supplied and some kinds of damage are never reported to its sources.

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System is a database overseen by the federal government. Under federal law, vehicle insurance companies, auto recycling companies, and junk and salvage yards must report information to the database on a regular basis. Therefore, these reports are not based solely on voluntarily supplied information.  Consumers, however, cannot buy these reports directly. Instead, they must get them from various third-party providers such as CARFAX and AutoCheck, which sell the NMVTIS reports in addition to their own reports.  Although reporting to NMVTIS is mandatory to a degree, state participation is not uniform. There also may be reporting delays and all information is not reported to the database in real time. As with the other reports, not all accidents and other kinds of damage are reported to insurance companies. These reports also do not contain the repair and maintenance information that can be found in CARFAX and AutoCheck reports.

Besides the big three, there a number of other private companies that provide vehicle history reports, which will have similar limitations as the CARFAX and AutoCheck reports.

Given their limitations, these reports are best used as a first step in researching a used car’s history. They can be used to see if there are any initial red flags such as a branded title or odometer discrepancy. Besides obtaining a vehicle history report, it is advisable to have an independent vehicle inspection to ensure that a vehicle does not have hidden damage no matter which vehicle history report you get.

FREE Case Review

With just a few pieces of information you’ll know instantly whether or not you may have a viable Lemon Law claim against the manufacturer of your vehicle. Please take a moment to see if we might be able to help and remember, there is no cost to you for our services.