What to look out for when buying a used car: Odometer and fluids


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Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate


11 May 15

Buying a used car can make a lot of financial sense, but it can also bring with it various pitfalls for unwary buyers. Whether it's your first time buying a car or you've bought a vehicle or two in your time, it's important never to get complacent when choosing your ride.

That is why CarHistory is fighting the good fight and putting you in the driver's seat with your next purchase. All you need is your potential vehicle's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and within a couple of minutes you can find out what you need to know about the car of your choice. 

Here are two things to look out for when hunting for your next vehicle. 

Odometer rollback

Odometers are a useful indicator to alert drivers when it's time for the next service, however they can also help to determine the condition of a used car. Like a window into the soul of a used car, an odometer displays every kilometre a vehicle has ever travelled - or does it?

Odometer rollback is a tactic whereby the total mileage display of a car is wound back to deceive would-be buyers. While the laws vary from state to state, the penalties for tampering can involve a fine of up to $22,000, as is the case in New South Wales. 

Unfortunately, it isn't always immediately apparent to buyers whether or not the odometer has been tampered with, which is where a CarHistory report can help. CarHistory’s reports provide details of the odometer reading so that you can determine if it has been rolled back. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, registered vehicles travel an average of 14,000 kilometres each year – a car history report can help ensure that your next vehicle has accounted for all of them. 

Fluid check 

Having a perfunctory check under the bonnet is a classic part of the "car inspection " routine. However, you might want to take another step closer and really see what lies beneath by examining the various fluids. By taking the time to do a DIY check, you can get a better idea of how well the car has been serviced by its previous owner(s), saving you possible heartache later.

Brake fluid is one of the most important checks, not only for the levels, but for the colour -  it should typically be clear to pale yellow. However, once brake fluid turns dark espresso brown, you could be in for extra expenses down the line should it need to be changed by a mechanic. 

Also verify that the engine oil isn't going to be a liability by checking it against a clean cloth. Changing the oil every few years, or as per the vehicle model's operating manual is a crucial part of good maintenance. If the oil looks dirty or it has turned gritty, there's a good chance the previous owner hasn't paid too much attention to taking care of their car. 

View a sample report >