Tech-Friendly: Used car buying research tools

Paul Gorski
Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

This is article is in response to Allen Penticoff’s column: “Mr. Green Car: Buying a used car from a person” from the May 14-20, 2014, edition (

Used car buying can be intimidating. Penticoff points out the importance of a thorough inspection and test drive of any used vehicle before buying it. I also recommend taking advantage of online services that can help provide you a history of the vehicle and let you know whether the vehicle was involved in an accident or flood. and let you check a car or truck’s ownership and accident history by entering the vehicle’s identification number (VIN). The VIN is unique, or should be, to each vehicle. These vehicle reports should show you: where the car has been purchased and registered, whether it was involved in any documented accidents, and if there are any concerns about who holds the title to the vehicle. These sites do not rate vehicles or offer pricing information; they simply try to document a vehicle’s ownership and accident history. You will likely have to pay for the reports. You can pay for individual reports or sign up for a membership that allows you to run many reports. The cost for the reports is a small price to pay to prevent being stuck with a lemon.

I also recommend looking up a car’s service recall history. This may be done at: This is a government website, from which I quote: “NHTSA’s databases provide an in-depth record of Safety Issues for Vehicles, Child Restraints, Tires, and Equipment. Safety Issues include all safety recalls for your product as well as safety complaints other users have filed.” I would avoid buying a car that has a long list of safety recalls and/or consumer complaints.

If your desired vehicle has a clean history and you are ready to buy, visit, and for fair pricing information. I like because you can see reviews of the cars, too. I always check the pricing on all three of these sites, as the prices do vary a bit. These sites will list dealer price and private purchase price; note the large difference between the two. Private purchases are usually a better deal.

I hope you find these tools useful. Happy car shopping.

Paul Gorski ( has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple Iie.

Posted June 4, 2014

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!