Yonkers, New York – A new investigation by Consumer Reports of used-car history reports found that many reports returned “clean” results for damaged cars. The magazine tested Carfax, Autocheck, the free VINCheck from the U.S. National Insurance Crime Bureau, and two services providing information from the U.S. government’s National Motor Vehicle Title Information Systems database.

To test the reports, the magazine ordered them for dozens of damaged vehicles advertised online. The vehicles’ owners disclosed serious dents or other crash-related damage, along with vehicle identification numbers (VINs) and photos.

Some damaged cars got “clean” reports from all five services checked. In most cases, the titles for those vehicles were not branded with the word “salvage” or any other term to indicate that they had been in a wreck.

“Salvage” or similar branding on the title is required by many states for most vehicles with extensive damage. However, Consumer Reports warns that even extensively damaged vehicles can escape the branding, such as if the car isn’t covered by insurance or was owned by a rental car company.

The magazine offers the following tips to check out a used car:

– Have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic to have it checked for any evidence of prior damage before you buy it.

– Don’t skip the drive test. Make note of unusual squeaks and rattles, and check the backs of body panels and door jambs for paint overspray, which may indicate body work.

– Ask the seller for a history report. If it isn’t recent or you suspect it has missing or fabricated information, verify it with the service.

– Be redundant. Just because one report is clean, another might not be. If you are not provided with a report from the seller, check with the free or inexpensive services first. Even clean reports from all services doesn’t guarantee that the vehicle doesn’t have damage or other problems.

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