VIN Reports - any recommendations?

I’m shopping for a used truck. Any suggestions for a VIN report service?

Googling provides a bewildering number of names & price ranges.

Hoping someone can recommend one that they’ve used & were satisfied with.

Car Fax is the 800lb gorilla in the vehicle history report business
Don’t forget that not every repair/damage will show up on these report.

They can be helpful, but it is rare they will give you better information than a good going-over by an independent mechanic.

How much are you going to pay for your truck? If an extra $50 or so will kill the deal, then it probably isn’t worth it. The report will tell you, generally, when the title changed hands, depending on the state, what the mileage was at each state inspection or registration (if required). Accident repairs that have been reported to an insurance company will often show up (but there are ways to keep them off). It can’t tell you if the car was repaired correctly (and they may not be able to tell that it has been repaired at all, only that a claim was made).

You will get title transfer information. Maybe not to who or from who (unless it’s a dealer), but that the title was transferred and if there is/was a lien on the title.

All this can be helpful if it is, say a 3 year old truck and the owner is saying he bought it two years ago from the original owner and it’s never been wrecked. If the report shows 4 title transfers since the original dealership title and the last transfer was 6 months ago, you know the owner is likely hiding something, or at least, you should question (peraps, he bought it two years ago, transferred the title to his son, but is now selling it because his son is not being responsible). But, without getting the report, you wouldn’t know.

I got one on the last 3 vehicles I’ve bought. None of them did much good, but I felt it was money well spent, considering the cost of the vehicle vs. the cost of the report. I’d do it again for my next car.

The networks they get their information from are all a little bit different. CarFax probably has the most extensive one, but if you’ve got some reason to be suspicious you might want to run it past other services.

Also do recognize the limitations of these services. CarFax especially has been trying to push the idea of their reports being the final word in used car worthiness, but the actual usefulness of the reports is a bit more limited. They’re really good for spotting deliberate fraud like odometer rollbacks or salvage titles that have been “cleaned” by shuffling them around different states, and having the general background of a car like where it was bought, whether it was a fleet car, etc can be useful. Like Rick said, their accident reporting is hit-or-miss and plus frankly their reports put way too much emphasis on some minor accidents that, if repaired, should be basically a non-issue. Their service record reporting is also too spotty to even be remotely useful.

Bottom line is they can provide some useful background information and catch a couple of particularly egregious problems, but they’re absolutely not a substitute for the usual due diligence, particularly a pre-purchase inspection.

AutoCheck is their top competitor. Anecdotally, I’ve heard more than one person claim that AutoCheck is a far superior service to Carfax but I’ve never seen anything to back up that claim. Any professional experience/opinions in regards to AutoCheck, Rick?

Every dealer I am familiar with uses Car Fax.
This is because:
(Pick as many as you like)
CF is better
CF is cheaper
CF has TV ads so that is what the buyer is asking for
CF has better sales and marketing people

Fair enough. To be clear, the anecdotes I heard were from a consumer viewpoint, not dealer. Specifically, consumers shopping on the private market where “Show me the Carfax!” isn’t likely to net any useful response. To be sure, Carfax has a considerably larger marketing budget and brand awareness.

wedgehed, I think you ought to at least check out AutoCheck. They’re less well known than Carfax, but have been around for 10+ years and are a subsidiary of Experian. As stated, I have heard very positive reviews, although I have no personal experience.

Thanks for the responses!

I haven’t bought a car since 2001 & haven’t bought a used one since 1990. I’m really out of the loop on the resources available these days.

I’m just looking for something suitable for dumpster runs, working around the yard & the occasional cargo hauling needs.