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All you need to know about VINS

When buying cars of almost any age, your eyes are often the target for deceit by car dealers. They make sure that the vehicle triggers salivation as much as is possible. Cosmetics often wins performance.

When buying cars of almost any age, your eyes are often the target for deceit by car dealers. They make sure that the vehicle triggers salivation as much as is possible. Cosmetics often wins performance. Where there are disguised problems, it takes more than a discerning eye and your mechanic’s experience, to cut through the common con-based-marketing; you need a proper VIN check. With a VIN check, you are able to know:

  • The true mileage
  • The service history
  • Number of owners
  • Accidents recorded and severity
  • Other records
  • Dirty secrets…you need to read this one!

In this post, we intend to share why as Nigerians, you should seriously consider a VIN check before buying a car that has been used overseas. This will not be very valuable to cars that were bought brand new in Nigeria. That is because, there are no records of these in foreign databases.

So below, find a number of reasons why you should do a VIN check on every foreign used ride you seek to buy, whether it has been locally used here or not.

  1. Mileage:

In a number of cases, mileage may just seem like a number, and there’s some merit to that thought line. However, just like everything machine ever manufactured, the older it gets, the more likely it is to breakdown. With odometer rollbacks being so rampant, you might be paying so much more for a vehicle that displays 41,000miles on the dash yet, whose original mileage is an inch above 302,000miles. If that knowledge doesn’t save you anything, it will save you the premium you seek to pay for what you felt was a low mileage.

  • Service History:

While the common assumption is that high-mileage vehicles can be recurrently problematic, there are way too many exceptions. Normally, cars that although have ramped up great miles but were religiously and sensibly serviced across their years of usage, still churn out great performance. For instance, if every required maintenance procedure as scheduled by the manufacturer (including changing parts of the engine due to mileage and not because they are faulty) have been dutifully executed, then, these cars may be 298,000miles yet be in better condition than a 74,000miles vehicle that was used (and abused) by a negligent individual who felt routine servicing was mere extortion. Only with a detailed VIN check can help fish this out.

  • Number of owners:

While this may seem immaterial, single-owner vehicles are often priced better than multiple-owner vehicles, for good reasons. E.g., One who buys a car brand new is likely going to be more financially capable of rendering due service to the car than a 4th owner who could only afford it at 40% of its former value, after 8years. Also, with different maintenance cultures, driving habits and road conditions across many car owners, vehicles with one or 2 owners will be the preferred choice and only a proper VIN check can unveil the chain of ownership.

  • Accidents recorded:

Due to structural impacts on a car, and the accompanying repairs needed, most cars with accidents are cheaper to buy. However, if you are getting this car from a dealer, more often than not, s/he would have bought it and made attempts at fixing the impacts. To extend profit margins, safety issues or even performance concerns may be compromised whilst fixing the vehicle. Like they say, “it’s business”. A detailed VIN check helps you put on a detectors X-ray glasses, to unveil the area and severity of the accident.

  • Other records:

Besides accidents which is the lead cause for issuing salvage titles to cars, there are other conditions that can earn a vehicle the same label. Flood is a common reason. And a flooded car can drench you with mechanical and electrical issues if not properly sorted.

Another not-too-common issue is theft! In a nation like ours where proper checks aren’t frequently done on car titles, a number of cars stolen overseas are shipped here for sales. If this car is tracked by Interpol, the buyer realizes that they may just have paid so much for major trouble. A VIN check doesn’t cost nearly as much yet saves one a whooping lot.

  • Dirty secrets:

Occasionally, we find desperate dealers who seek to sell a car that has been locally used in Nigeria as one that is fresh-off-the-boat. While these cars are often very neatly used, they shouldn’t be sold fraudulently as cars that haven’t been previously registered in Nigeria. It is paying so much more, for less. How does a VIN check help unveil this? Often, a detailed VIN check will share when the car was sold or auctioned off and, in some cases, when it was shipped off to Nigeria. Sometimes, this happened 2years before you came upon the deal. Armed with this information, you then can ask, “how come this car has been unsold and unregistered, for 2years?!” If you have the patience, you will likely hear a plausible story. I often advise impatience…just run!

Let us know if you found this piece helpful.