Checking the History of a Used Car

Checking the History of a Used Car

Written by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated December 9, 2021

Although having a brand new car is often what most people idealize, it is not always realistic. A brand new car requires a large financial commitment and more often than not good credit. On top of both those hurdles, new cars lose a significant amount of their value as soon as they are driven off the lot. Although buying any product straight from a manufacturer is more straightforward, you may decide that you would like to go the second-hand route. If you do, it’s important you perform the proper background research beforehand so that you may be as informed as possible.

Luckily for you, in Canada, there are many different companies that offer vehicle history reports to Canadian consumers.

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What’s Included in Your Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report includes details regarding your vehicle that you wouldn’t get through your dealership. It generally includes information regarding major accidents, odometer rollback, ownership history, registration, repair costs and a number of other aspects that can affect your purchasing decision.

Reasons to Get a Vehicle History Report

There are many reasons you should always get a vehicle history report prior to purchasing a used car. 

  • Firstly, you don’t want to get stuck with a lemon car. This term is used to describe buying a used car that seemed to work and be of good value but actually had hidden defects and safety issues.   
  • Secondly, you’ll be able to check the vehicle’s accident history and what kind of damages it has endured. Moreover, you’ll be able to check if any professional maintenance had been done. This can tell you exactly what kind of problems the car has had and will have as well as if the car was used responsibly. 
  • Thirdly, some private sellers or dealerships rollback the odometer even if it is illegal to do so. These sellers typically do so to increase the car’s value. Checking your vehicle’s history report will ensure you don’t fall for these sneaky sellers. 
  • Lastly, being able to check the ownership history is essential in understanding how your vehicle was handled in the past. You’ll be able to check how long they kept it for and what regions it’s been driven which should give you an idea about the car’s life expectancy.

Ways to Obtain the Vehicle’s History


Well known for its efficiency, CarProof will be able to uncover a car’s history in both the United States and Canada. Using just the VIN, CarProof is able to trace back where the car was manufactured, its insurance and collision history, its odometer record, and also, whether there has been a security claim filed against it.

This kind of information obtained from CarProof is a real asset when refuting claims made by the seller. The seller may claim the car was only in a fender bender yet CarProof may indicate an accident with a $10,000 or more insurance claim. The report may not indicate exactly what the accident was but it will still be valuable information that could be the deciding factor in whether to buy or not.


This is an American site but you can receive a report anywhere in Canada. By going onto the CarFax website, you can click “Find a Car”. Then you can plug in the year, make, and model of the car you are looking for, along with your postal code. This site will then provide you with a list of dealers that are selling the kind of car you are looking for, along with a free CarFax report. This is a great time saver. Instead of finding a car and then obtaining the report, you are only looking at cars that come with a credible vehicle history.

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Getting the Best Out of Your Research

Often times dealers will provide at least some information on the car’s history. Although this is a good start, as a consumer it is important to be as informed as possible because sometimes others do not have your best interests in mind. This being said, try to do as much research yourself as possible. You may uncover certain things about a car’s history that can alter its value. For example, the car may have been in a serious collision or the odometer may not read accurately. It is critical to be aware of all these variables before making your purchase.

New vs. Used Cars

Infographic: New Cars vs. Used Cars 

Other Factors to Consider When Buying a Used Car

Here are some straightforward pointers you should keep in mind when doing your due diligence before you purchase your next car:

Attention to Detail

If a dealer does provide you with a report, don’t just focus on what’s written but also on what may be omitted. Also, pay close attention to the date the report was performed. If the report is not recent or lacks information, this should be a red flag.

Have the Car Inspected

Having the car inspected yourself will give you an objective assessment of the vehicle. The mechanic performing the inspection has no real interest in whether you buy the car or not, so his inspection should be neutral. Inspections usually take an hour and mechanics will charge their regular hourly rate for their labour. So in Canada, you’re looking at approximately $80 for an inspection.

Compare Sources

As we discussed, reports can have their limitations. Cross-checking more than one report can be an effective way of assessing just how accurate of a representation each report is. For example, if you are provided with a report, it’s in your best interest to have your own inspection performed. If the initial report was omitted certain information, it should show up after cross-checking the two reports.

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Caitlin Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Loans Canada and specializes in personal finance. She is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University and has been working in the personal finance industry for over eight years. Caitlin has covered various subjects such as debt, credit, and loans. Her work has been published on Zoocasa, GoDaddy, and deBanked. She believes that education and knowledge are the two most important factors in the creation of healthy financial habits. She also believes that openly discussing money and credit, and the responsibilities that come with them can lead to better decisions and a greater sense of financial security.

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