A vehicle history check can give you a comprehensive overview of the history of a used vehicle that you want to purchase. You can find these vehicle history checks in the form of a vehicle history report, which are offered for all cars made after 1980. A vehicle history report can tell you how much above or below retail book value the car is worth, the ownership history of the vehicle, if the airbags have ever been deployed, the title and mileage history of the vehicle and the vehicle's service history.
Find a dealer that offers free vehicle history reports, such as a Carfax report. You can do this by calling the dealership to ask or searching their website to see if they advertise free vehicle history reports. The terms for each dealership may differ. For example, some dealers may only give you a report after you buy a car, some when you test drive a car and others will give you one just for being interested in a car. Choose a dealer that will give you a vehicle history report without requiring you to purchase a car first.
Choose a used car that you are interested in, which was also manufactured after 1980. There is no sense in wasting the salesman's time to obtain a vehicle history check for a car that you have no intention to buy. Vehicle history reports are unique to each individual car, so getting a history report for one car will not help you determine what is wrong with another car. The one exception is that "Manufacturer Recall" section of the vehicle history report, which will tell you if that model has had a recall issued. Vehicle history reports, especially free ones, may be hard or impossible to find for vehicles manufactured in 1980 or earlier, since the 17-didgit VIN numbers that are used for tracking vehicles did not become standard until 1981.
Tell the dealer that you want a vehicle history report. Although the dealership may offer free vehicle history checks, they may not pass them out to everyone. Therefore, you may need to let the salesman know that you want a report in order to get one.