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One often hears that you should never buy a used car without having its service history. But just how important is the service history of a car? Should shoppers automatically walk away from the purchase of a car, simply because the service records are incomplete or missing altogether? What are the possible consequences of buying a vehicle which hasn’t undergone the proper maintenance services? CARFAX takes a look at these questions and explains the importance of the service history of a car, as well as where you can find the complete history of service records.

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Check Hyundai Car Service History Online Free

The service history of a car consists of any maintenance work done on a vehicle, regardless of the frequency, difficulty, or cost. Perhaps the most common maintenance performed on a vehicle is to regularly change the oil. Other typically quick and common forms of maintenance are the replacement of cabin and engine air filters, windshield wipers, and batteries. These are all typically quick, easy ways to maintain a vehicle.

Some more forms of maintenance which should not be neglected include changing spark plugs. If the spark plugs are covered in a buildup or simply worn out, the engine will not operate efficiently. This means extra fuel costs, and can lead to a breakdown in the future. It’s also important to ensure the tires are balanced and rotated. Having the car properly aligned also prevents the need to replace all four tires at once (which can be very expensive) due to uneven wear.

But there are some records in the service history of a car which are more important to look out for. For example, many vehicles require that the timing belt be changed every 100,000-120,000 kilometers. This service can be an expensive, and failing to perform it can result in the belt snapping. When a timing or serpentine belt fails, your car will break down wherever it is, and there is a risk that other important parts will be damaged due to the failure. A snapped timing belt can also lead to an engine replacement being necessary, which increases the costs of repair significantly.

Without having the service history of a car, it’s very difficult to know if and when this maintenance has been performed.

Service History Represents Good Ownership

One of the greatest benefits of buying a vehicle which includes with the service history, is the peace of mind it brings with it. Owners who took the time, and spent the money, to regularly maintain their vehicle often tend to have taken better care of the vehicle in general.

If the previous owner kept all of the service and maintenance receipts, one could assume they drove the car with pride and wanted to ensure it was in the best technical condition possible.

This is usually seen as a plus for used car shoppers, as it is preferable to buy a vehicle which was driven with love, rather than abuse. While a stack of service records doesn’t automatically mean the vehicle is in perfect condition, it is still a good sign.

used car inspection

What About Vehicles with No Service History?

Used cars shoppers will learn quickly that the previous owner doesn’t always keep the service history of a car. If the owner of vehicle you’re interested in doesn’t have the records available, this doesn’t necessarily equal a red flag for the vehicle. Some owners perform the regular maintenance, but aren’t the type to keep records. Or sometimes the owner simply lost them (e.g. during a move, accidentally thrown away, etc.).

Just because the previous owner cannot provide them to you directly, it doesn’t mean the service history doesn’t still exist. If the vehicle was serviced by an official manufacturer or franchised dealership, records are maintained in their computer system. It is often easy enough to obtain them from the dealership directly.

It may be possible that the vehicle simply wasn’t properly serviced. These vehicles carry a much higher risk. Buyers should be aware that problems can, and often do, arise when a vehicle has no service history. Accidents can occur due to an unforeseen mechanical failure. Hefty repair bills can come suddenly and without warning. Repairs tend to accumulate as one problem is often times connected to another. For these reasons and more, it’s very important to find out if the vehicle has been properly maintained.

Thankfully there is another, easier way to find out the service history of a car.

Check the service history on the CARFAX Report

The CARFAX Vehicle History Report contains all reported service and maintenance records over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime. The records are displayed in a clear, easy to read format which details the date and location of the maintenance, as well as which service was performed. Additionally, in many cases, the mileage at the time of the service is recorded as well, giving potential buyers a deeper look into the vehicle’s past.

The service history of a car should show most of the above mentioned maintenance types. Some of these can be performed at home by adept owners, but others are more commonly performed by a service / repair shop. Below is an example of how the CARFAX Report displays a vehicle’s service history in a clear and easy-to-read way:

service history carfax

It is important to note that the service history of a car is only one element to consider when buying a used vehicle. While service records are helpful in learning about a vehicle’s past, it’s important to learn as much about a vehicle before you buy it.

In addition to the service history, the CARFAX Vehicle History Report offers used car buyers a lot more useful information, including:

  • Registration Information
  • Comprehensive Technical Specifications
  • Vehicle Age
  • Number of Owners
  • Mileage Records
  • Odometer Manipulation (e.g. odometer rollback, fraud, etc.)
  • Title History
  • And much more…

If you are a used car seller and you have lost – or never had – the service history of your car, showing the CARFAX Report to potential buyers demonstrates that you have nothing to hide about your car. This builds trust in a situation where the customer could potentially walk away from the sale.

Used Car Websites

Buying a new or used vehicle is a big decision — both financially and in terms of the amount of time we spend in our cars. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s an app for that. Cars, trucks, and SUVs of all types can be found online today. You don’t even need to leave your couch to research, browse, inquire, and finance your next vehicle.

Here are some of the best used-car websites around.

Autolist.com
Because it’s an aggregator (like Kayak.com), the easy-to-use Autolist site displays millions of vehicles from many different sources. Users can view details such as the length of time a given vehicle has been on the market, plus any price changes for that vehicle. Autolist has one of the highest-rated used-car apps available. It works with Android or iOS phones, and just like the website, it checks multiple online databases to help you locate your dream car. The app also has instant price-drop alerts and high-res pictures to help you find the best deals on the most local listings. Shoppers can even apply for financing. With family sharing, as many as six family members can share information through the app. Add to that reviews, industry insights, a Rotten Tomatoes-style aggregator of older vehicle reviews, and buyer’s guides to help steer you through the car-buying process.

Go to Autolist


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Autotempest.com
Like some of the other websites here, AutoTempest’s search results are drawn from multiple sources. Their website and app work similarly to the others, including the ability to save searches. They have lots of other useful information as well, including an up-to-date blog, buying guides, and car reviews. While you can filter your searches, the criteria for doing so are much more limited, although some might consider it to be streamlined. Either way, the essential information is provided. Choices include make, model, distance, price, year, mileage, vehicle type, transmission, and whether it’s for sale from a private party or by a
dealer.

Go to Autotempest


Autotrader.com
Because Autotrader.com nearly predates the internet itself, its longstanding reputation has built up decades of trust. Available as a website since 1997, it has over 3 million listings drawn from 40,000 dealers and 250,000 private sellers, and its selection is immense. The website has a wide variety of filters that can help you narrow your search down to exactly the type of vehicle you’re looking for. You can save your searches and even apply for insurance and a loan.

Go to Autotrader


BringATrailer.com
Bring A Trailer used to be a listing of interesting cars for sale around the country, now it is a full-blown auction site, with rare and unusual vehicles selling for sometimes astounding figures. It is the place to find that social ride or merely kill endless amounts of time browsing high-dollar exotics and absurdly clean early 2000s commuters. Recently, a pristine 2000 Honda Civic SI sold for $50,000. If you are in the market for something unusual or are willing to pay top dollar for your dream car, check out BaT.

Go to Bring a Trailer


CarGurus.com
This is a company that seeks to build trust through transparency. You will find many of the same search options on their website as you’ll find on the other sites. However, you’ll also find the CarGurus valuation of a given vehicle based on typical search criteria on top of this. This algorithm is similar to the methods used by KBB. The information they use to make this determination includes comparable car listings and pricing data on vehicles that have recently sold. Ratings are based on mileage, trim, vehicle history, and a multitude of other factors. CarGurus rates each available car deal as being Overpriced, High, Fair, Good, or Great.

Go to CarGurus


Carmax.com
Carmax is a dealership specializing in high quality used cars, many available with the internet-famous Carmax warranty. This website isn’t the best for those looking for a killer deal because of their no-haggle policy, but it is an excellent place for people who want the most effortless car shopping and buying experience. For those looking for the ease of browsing and buying online, without the anxiety-inducing Craigslist test drive, Carmax can be a good option. Browse, buy, and the car can be ready for pick up, virtually all online or on their mobile app.

Go to Carmax


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Cars.com
Cars.com is one of the largest automotive search engines. With thousands of listings covering almost every car, there is also a new tool that rates the value of used vehicles relative to the current market trends. Cars.com has fewer private sellers, but it’s a great way to search dealers in your area and compare pricing for similar vehicles. It also has extensive sorting options to narrow your search by the specs and features you are looking for and leaving out those you don’t want. In addition to consumer reviews, the site has now built up an extensive archive of expert reviews written by its editorial staff.

Go to Cars.com


CarsDirect.com
This site works to simplify buying a car, and like Autotrader and others on this list, they can help find financing. The search criteria include make, model, distance, price, mileage, year, color, engine, and even photo availability. CarsDirect also has buying guides, rankings, and vehicle comparisons. Like similar sites, you can save your searches and vehicles of interest. The website also has educational videos, including reviews, car news and reports, and tools that include a trade-in valuation.

Go to CarsDirect


Carvana.com
Carvana is another used car dealer that built a business around making the buying experience easier. Buy with confidence with a 7-day money-back guarantee, and have the car delivered to your door. All Carvana vehicles have accident free vehicle history and pass a 150-point inspection. You can also sell your vehicle to Carvana, even without buying from them. They claim you will get a real offer after filling out a form, which takes just a couple of minutes. With used car values near all-time highs, it may be a good time to see what your car is worth to them. Carvana is also the inventor of the car vending machine for those looking to buy in person. It’s a neat gimmick worth checking out.

Go to Carvana


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Craigslist.org
Primarily a classified site, Craigslist doesn’t have many fancy graphics or options, but the site’s selection is fairly broad, and postings usually include photos. You’ll need to be super savvy if you’re going this route because the site is rife with scammers, but it is possible to negotiate a worthwhile deal here. Search filters here include distance, price, make and model, year, mileage, condition, number of cylinders, drivetrain and fuel type, color, size, title status, vehicle type, and transmission type. A point of interest to some, some sellers on Craigslist might accept cryptocurrency like Bitcoin in exchange for the vehicle they’re selling. You can also create email alerts for the specific attributes of a vehicle that you’re looking for.

Go to Craigslist


eBay.com
eBay Motors isn’t just an auction site for rare vehicles anymore. There are thousands of used and new cars listed by dealerships and private sellers to peruse using classified-style listings. Whether you are shopping for a custom show car or a late model Chevy, eBay likely has at least one of those vehicles. Other great searches on eBay motors include the “Replica/Kit Make” section, as well as the “Racecar (Not Street Legal)” category. Just be careful in terms of trusting sellers since eBay makes it difficult to recoup any monies lost to fraud or misrepresented vehicles. A pre-purchase inspection by an independent third party is highly recommended if you’re not able to see the vehicle yourself in person before buying.

Go to eBay


Edmunds.com
Edmunds originated as a paperback booklet available at newsstands. Decades of experience have made this a well-respected name in the industry. The website allows you to save searches and favorites and also lets you filter your selections. Although their search functions look similar to the ones available on other sites, they often have more features and options to choose between. That allows buyers to narrow and refine more thoroughly. Edmunds also has a wealth of advice and articles to help educate people about the car-buying process and the vehicles themselves.

Go to Edmunds


EnterpriseCarSales.com
If you don’t mind a car with plenty of miles on it, Enterprise’s former rentals can be a good choice. They offer a no-questions-asked, seven-day “buyer’s remorse” period, in addition to their 12-month or 12,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and one year of roadside assistance. Enterprise also provides financing. Unlike most of the other sites mentioned here, the company sells cars only from one source: their retired rental fleets. They also take trade-ins and have special programs for college graduates or first-time car buyers. The website allows you to search by the monthly payment you can afford alongside the same criteria you’ll find on other sites.

Go to Enterprise Car Sales


Hemmings.com
For classic car, truck, or motorcycle collectors, this is a ‘don’t-miss’ destination. As well as vehicles, Hemmings helps you locate hard-to-find parts for project cars. Search for vehicles or parts by make, model, type, price range, and category. With more of a community feel to it, this site maintains a blog and regularly sends out newsletters. Hemmings also sells merchandise related to this niche market. They have an email list, fantastic videos, and special events, not to mention apps for Android and iOS, and several print publications to subscribe to.

Go to Hemmings


KBB.com
The words “Blue Book price” have been a part of the American vocabulary for nearly a century, and the Kelley Blue Book website and app both trade on this longstanding name recognition. Not only are they known for providing accurate estimates of your car’s market value, but their site has tools for checking your credit score and calculating car payments too. Expert reviews, top ten lists, and recall postings make this site a longtime go-to favorite for automotive information. They also cover motorcycles, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft such as jet skis. KBB even has an instant cash offer section on their website.

Go to Kelley Blue Book

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