One of the scariest propositions for car buyers is landing on a car that has been involved in an accident before. Depending on their severity, accidents compromise the vehicle’s durability and performance. Even after extensive repairs, issues may show up later on. In many cases, it’s hard to spot prior damages, that's why it's smart to request an accident report by VIN.
What is an Accident Check?
When a car is involved in an accident, the law enforcement officer responding to the scene of the crash will write a police report describing the accident. Owners too may be requested to compile and submit their accident reports to the state DMV or insurance company, particularly if the police officer doesn't respond to the scene.
The report attempts to capture critical facts about the accident including the date, time, and place. It includes details of the involved parties such as the driver's name, license plate number, and address. The report also documents how the accident occurred and the conditions that may have caused the crash. It reports the amount of damage to the vehicles or other property. Police accident reports are often needed before filing an insurance claim.
When performing an accident look-up by VIN on FAXVIN, the accident report is one of the sections in the car history report. It lists all the reported incidents where the car was involved.
The severity doesn’t matter. As long as the incident was reported, it will likely show up. Note that details about accidents may be compiled from other sources including repair facilities, state DMV offices, insurance companies, and auto auctions.
The VIN is a unique 17-digit identifier assigned to each car that leaves the production facility. It remains the same throughout the vehicle’s life, unlike license plates that can change ever so often as ownership changes across state lines. The VIN also has functional usage as it encodes specific details about the car such as when it was produced, its color, or its engine specifications.
You should always check accidents by VIN rather than license plate to get a complete picture of all the incidents the car has ever been involved in. The VIN is required to be easily accessible by law enforcement that's why it's often located on the dashboard or driver/passenger door frame.
Why is the Report Important?
Before purchasing a vehicle with prior owners, you should know everything you can about it. This sheds light on whether it's a good purchase that you can drive for many years. Or if the car has underlying or hidden damages that may arise later on, which can end up costing too much money even more than you paid for the car.
For instance, if the car had to be repainted, the paint may not last as long as the factory paint. Similarly, cars with structural damage may be nearly impossible to restore to their factory specifications.
The value of the car also depreciates after it has been involved in an accident. If you still want to pursue the purchase, this can be a bargaining chip as it can also become difficult for you to sell the car to someone else.
A VIN accident history report is critically important when the seller declines to fully reveal the car's history. They may be oblivious to the vehicle's full history if it had other prior owners. Some sellers are quite dishonest and will also go to great lengths to hide any visual indications of accidents. If you point them out, they will downplay their severity.
So, it's always expedient to spend time investigating used cars by requesting a report. Even if the car has not had any prior accidents, the auto accident report still offers vital details as it comes as part of a full report. You can get answers to other common questions like:
- Has the odometer reading been tampered with?
- Was the car properly maintained?
- Does the car have a salvaged title?
- Has the vehicle had fire, flood, or water damage?
- How was the car originally used?
- Does the car have any reported manufacturing defects or recalls?
What does the Report Contain?
By requesting an accident report by VIN, you get a full history report for the vehicle with many different sections. The accident section may contain entries for one or more accidents. Each entry will list the date and the reporting institution. The details section of the entry may contain the following information:
- Identification number: This may be the receipt number for the police report or the DMC accident case number.
- Year & model: The production year of the vehicle and its model for instance, "2010 Chevrolet Malibu (Black)."
- License state: State of registration when the accident occurred.
- Damage severity: This indicates the amount of damage the vehicle sustained, and there are often three classes: minor, moderate, and severe.
- Impact area: It’s the point where a collision happened with another vehicle or object. Front-impact collisions are not only deadly but they also cause a lot of damage. The impact area also tells you which parts may have sustained damage which aids during the visual inspection as you can determine if the repairs were carried out successfully.
- Manner of collision: It describes the direction the vehicle was going when it was involved in the impact.
- Crash severity: It notes whether an injury resulted from an accident, and there can be different entries from no apparent injury to fatal injury.
- Airbag function: This indicates whether the airbag deployed, and it can denote the impact as airbags deploy in moderate-to-severe crashes.
- Crash location: It gives a description of the location on the road where the impact occurred, or essentially where the vehicles were when they first hit each other. For instance, it can be on the shoulder, off the road, at an intersection, on the roadway, etc.
You will come across other entries depending on how much information was obtained from the report. Details may also vary based on the legal provisions on how the accident report should be filed.
Here are two sample accident records showing some of the details that you can expect to see:
How Trustworthy is the Report?
The report is compiled from trustworthy sources including motor vehicle bureaus in the US and Canada, repair facilities, state inspection stations, law enforcement agencies, manufacturers, auto auctions, insurance companies, and even fire departments. These are the main sources of information but they're also others. That said, FAXVIN cannot make guarantees about the completeness or accuracy of every single entry.
What to Do to Get an Accident Report
Generating a traffic accident report on our website is a fast and intuitive process. You not only get access to the accident section but also a full comprehensive vehicle history. The only thing that you need to get started is the accurate VIN. Once you have it, follow these simple steps from one to four.
- Step 1: Navigate to the VIN search section at the top section of this page.
- Step 2: Input the 17-digit VIN checking it for accuracy.
- Step 3: Click the search button.
- Step 4: Receive a comprehensive history report in a couple of minutes and navigate to the Accidents section to see if the car has been involved in any prior accidents.
How to Check if a Vehicle has Been in an Accident for Free?
Can you get a VIN accident history for free? Not quite. Some of the websites that provide car history information as a paid service may offer free accident reports. But these are snapshots of the full report with some of the details hidden to get you to pay for a full report.
Some government sources provide free VIN information. However, they don’t contain accident information. But you can get other details as described below:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a VIN tool. But it's mainly meant to provide information about a vehicle's plant of manufacture. You will only need to provide the VIN and model year on its tool for accident lookup by VIN.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau provides a free lookup service. But it's mainly meant to assist users to determine if a vehicle has a previous record of an insurance theft claim, whether or not it was recovered, or if it has ever been reported as salvage. The records are provided by participating insurance companies, and the disclaimer notes that it's not a comprehensive history report.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides free vehicle information checks on its website. You only need to enter the title or VIN, and you can get various details, including whether the vehicle has a prior record of an insurance theft claim, if it has ever been reported as salvage, etc.
As you can tell by now, VIN accident history reports can paint a fuller picture of all accidents the car has ever been involved in during its ownership history. If the impacts were moderate to severe, you can assess how the car may perform in the future, allowing you to anticipate future problems resulting from the impact.
Accident reports can aid in inspections to determine if the repairs were carried out professionally and to the expected standards. You can also get a fair price for the vehicle considering its accident or damage history.
The accident report should be part of a full history report if you want to get the most insights. You can further tell how the car performed after the accident or how much it was driven or used.