How to find the service history on a car

Updated March 21, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.


Car Max performs a similar auto history check called a "Car Fax." Anyone can obtain a service report for a vehicle with the right information.

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About the Author

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.