How to find the service history on a car

Written by charlie gaston
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How to find the service history on a car
Research a car's history before buying it. (a car in a car show image by Gary from

Before buying a new or used car, you must research its history. Knowing a car's service and repair history can alert you to potential problems in the future. This is especially true for salvage vehicles, which undergo a significant amount of repair and service work during the rebuilding and restoration process. Vehicle service reports are available free of charge; however you must provide specific information about the vehicle in order to obtain the report.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Find the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Find the VIN on your car's door frame or in the engine compartment. Look for a small metal plate with the 17-character number printed on it.

  2. 2

    Go to your state's Department of Motor Vehicle's website. Enter the VIN number into the website's vehicle history database. Click "Enter" to initiate a search of the car's complete service history.

  3. 3

    Look for reports of a wreck, flood damage or odometer fraud. The report will also indicate if the car was stolen or subject to a manufacturer's recall. Print the report for your records.

  4. 4

    Contact the dealer or manufacturer for additional service information related to a recall or wreck.

  5. 5

    Expect a longer service history for a vehicle that has been rebuilt or salvaged from a wreck. A salvage vehicle is deemed to have repair costs that exceed 70 per cent of its pre-damage value.

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