Buyer Tips

5 Things to Consider in a Vehicle History Report when Using Dealer Auto Auctions

By Mike Richards Updated: 07/19/2017 Posted: 03/01/2017

When you use online dealer auto auctions to purchase a used car, the best weapon you have at your disposal is knowledge. In order to make sure that you’re making the best and most sound bidding decisions, you want to leverage every bit of knowledge at your disposal.

Most reputable car auction websites can provide you not only with photos of the vehicles being auctioned, but also with their history. Requesting a vehicle history report for any used, salvage or like-new vehicle on which you intend to bid is one of the smartest moves you can make when you are planning to buy a car at an online auction.

Vehicle history reports provide you with a wealth of valuable information about the vehicle at stake. However, as with any source of information, it is important that you know what you are looking for. Here are the five most important things to look for.

  1. Are There Any Repossessions?

Perhaps more so than any other metric, repossessions can be a huge red flag for a used car. Cars are repossessed when an owner cannot afford to make his or her car payments. If an owner cannot afford to make car payments, then they likely cannot afford to pay for ongoing vehicle maintenance. This means that beyond even an attractive exterior, there may be some important hidden problems with the car. So, think twice before bidding on a car that has been repossessed, and make sure that it is in good working order.

  1. What About Previous Owners?

Understanding how many previous owners a vehicle has had can often be a big indication of what state a vehicle might be in. You’re familiar with the saying that too many cooks can spoil the broth, right? Well, the same can be said for vehicles. The larger the number of owners a vehicle has had, the more likely it is that the vehicle has been mistreated over the course of its lifespan. Ideally, you want a vehicle that has had as few previous owners as possible.

  1. Are There Any Lapses in Registration?

This seemingly minute detail about a car’s history can actually be quite illuminating. In the same way that repossessions are often a sign that a vehicle hasn’t been taken care of well, so too are lapses in registration. Allowing a vehicle’s registration to lapse is a sign of irresponsibility. Do you want a car that’s been under the care of someone who is irresponsible? This might be a sign that there are also lapses in the vehicle’s maintenance, and that the vehicle may be in a worse condition than it seems.

  1. Where Has the Vehicle Been Housed?

The lifespan of any used vehicle is often determined by where that vehicle has lived. Simply put, there are certain environments that are good for vehicles and certain ones that are not. If a vehicle has been housed in a place where the elements are rough, then it’s more likely that a vehicle has sustained deep-seated damage over its lifespan. A car that is kept in a garage, for example, is probably in better condition than a similar vehicle that is kept outside, exposed to the elements.

  1. Has There Been Any Damage Due to Fire or Flood?

When using online dealer auto auctions, be sure to be on the lookout for vehicles that have been damaged due to fire or flood. These kinds of events are the most likely to cause damage to a vehicle that’s too difficult (or too expensive) to be repaired.  For this reason, all but the most experienced bidders will want to avoid these kinds of cars. Flood damage, in particular, can easily wreak havoc in the vehicle’s electric system, causing serious problems that cannot be seen in photos or even by a superficial live inspection.

By looking for these five different bits of information on the vehicle’s history report, you are ensuring that you make a properly informed decision regarding your vehicle purchase. You have to remember that in most car auctions the vehicles are sold “as is”, meaning that there are no warranties. This makes it all the more important that you get as much information as possible on the vehicles you are planning to bid on.

However, if you still feel unsure about what to do, you can always get some help. You can consult a friend or family member who has more knowledge of cars than you, or, for professional expert advice, you can hire the services of a car broker. A car broker will not only be able to advise you on your purchase, but can also give you access to other auctions, including auctions for new cars, for a reasonable fee. They can also take care of all the paperwork for you, and arrange the vehicle to be transported to your home.