How to Check a Used Car's History for Free

A car history report can be particularly useful when you're buying a used car. These reports contain important information such as accident history, whether the car was ever declared a lemon, maintenance and inspection details, past ownership, current liens and a check of the vehicle's titleholder.

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"A vehicle history report (VHR), also referred to as a VIN check, used car report, or car history report, is a detailed document that provides vehicle information about the history of a particular car, boat, truck or RV. In order to obtain a VHR to verify a car's history, you'll need to know your vehicle identification number (VIN)."

The easiest way to get a used car's history at no cost to you is by having the seller pay for it. Many dealers and used car sites offer history reports as a service. A few companies offer these reports, but CARFAX is the most well-known. also offers reports, but only CARFAX has options to obtain the full report for free. If you simply want to know if the car has been stolen or involved in a crime, you can use VINCheck, which links to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

You can get a free history report in a few ways:

  • When you own the car, you can set up a MyCARFAX account and add several cars to your own "garage" on the site. You'll need the vehicle's license plate number or VIN.
  • When you shop at the CARFAX site, CARFAX devotes an entire section to used car sales, all of which come with a free vehicle history report.
  • When you're browsing other online car sites like and AutoTrader, they often include a free vehicle history report. has a vehicle history report available for free in many of their used cars' histories.
  • Many car dealers have linked CARFAX histories to their used car inventory on their websites. Look for the links and if you don't see them, ask the dealer if it will provide the history reports for your final choices.

Companies like CARFAX and offer valuable information, but it usually comes with a price tag unless you own the car. Fortunately, many dealers pay for unlimited CARFAX history reports so they can offer this service, either at the car lot or online.