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If you’re buying a used car, the FTC recommends getting a vehicle history report before you buy. Vehicle history reports can tell you a lot about a used car. A report might include ownership history, whether the car was in any accidents, its repair records, and whether it ever was declared as salvage.

Get the Vehicle’s History

How can I learn a vehicle’s history?
Visit the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) website,, to get a vehicle history report with title, insurance loss, and salvage information. This site lists NMVTIS-approved providers of vehicle history reports. Choose one, enter the VIN (vehicle identification number, which is listed on the front of the Buyers Guide), and pay the provider’s fee to learn the car’s history.

NMVTIS-approved providers offer vehicle history reports to consumers, car dealerships, and financial institutions. But not all vehicle history reports are available through the NMVTIS website. Reports from other providers sometimes have additional information, like accident and repair history:

(Note: The FTC doesn’t endorse any specific services.)

A vehicle history report is not a substitute for an independent vehicle inspection. Before you buy a vehicle, it’s a good idea to get an independent vehicle inspection to ensure it does not have hidden damage.

Has the car been recalled?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website,, has free listings of vehicles subject to open safety recalls. That means the manufacturer has recalled the vehicle but repairs are not yet done. Enter the vehicle’s VIN to find out if a vehicle is subject to an open recall. You also can call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236.

Has the car been declared as salvage?
The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s website lets you enter a VIN and find out if the vehicle has been flood damaged, was stolen but unrecovered, or otherwise declared as salvage.

Steps for Used Car Shopping

If you’re buying a used car, it pays to be prepared. There are steps you can take before you ever visit a car dealer or shop the ads. Here are some resources you can use to compare cars, costs, and avoid problems.

Read up on what to expect.
The Federal Trade Commission has tips to help you shop safely and avoid trouble down the road. Topics include:

How much is the car worth?
Whether you’re trading in, or figuring out what to pay for a new or used car, there are commercial services with information about the value and pricing of new and used vehicles: 

(Note: The FTC doesn’t endorse any specific services.)

In Case of Trouble

Suspect fraud? Report it.
If you think a car dealer is breaking the rules, tell the Federal Trade Commission online or by phone: 1-877-FTC-HELP. You also can tell your state attorney general’s office or local consumer protection office.

Resources for Auto Dealers

What are your responsibilities?
Keep up to date on the rules and laws that could affect your company. Topics include the FTC Buyers Guide, the Dealer’s Guide to the Used Car Rule, the Business Person’s Guide to Federal Warranty Law, and the FTC’s Privacy Rule and Auto Dealers: FAQs.