Vehicle history reports have become an integral part of any used-car purchase. They are one of the best ways to learn about a given vehicle's past and help make your search for a used car much easier. Most importantly, the report tells shoppers if a car has a "branded" title. Branding means an insurance company has declared the vehicle a total loss and given it a salvage title because of an accident, flood damage or other catastrophic event.
The car's vehicle identification number (VIN) is the key to the vehicle history report. The 17-digit VIN is like the car's Social Security number: It's used to note nearly every major event in a vehicle lifetime. Typically, the information on a vehicle history report includes a summary and an overall evaluation of the vehicle, supported with details, dates and locations. The report makes it easy to see if the car has been registered in numerous states. Other information can include a description of the vehicle, the number of previous owners, accident information, verification of recent mileage (which could include an alert for an odometer rollback) and lemon-law and recall checks. For definitive information on recalls for any used car that you're considering, use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's free VIN Look-up tool.