If you have ever bought a used car, I’m sure you must be familiar with the website Carfax. It is an online service that provides vehicle history reports on used cars and light trucks. Carfax caters to both American and Canadian consumers. It is one of the most popular websites for vehicle history reports.
But does Carfax provide vehicle history reports for used bikes as well? The answer is both yes and no. Its database contains information for some motorcycle VIN (vehicle identification number). But there is no specific Carfax report for motorcycles.
So, if you are lucky, you might get some information, but it is uncertain that you definitely will.
What are the services that you get from Carfax?
Robert Daniel Clark and Ewin Barnett started Carfax in 1984. Its initial aim was to reduce odometer fraud. But today, it provides information on motor vehicles from more than 100,000 sources.
They include motor vehicle departments in all 50 US states, all ten provinces in Canada, and insurance companies.
You can get three types of reports on a used car from the Carfax website. Currently, you can get one report at $39.99, three at $59.99, and six at $99.99. These reports contain the following information.
- Number of previous owners and any salvage titles
- All previous odometer readings
- Roadworthiness as in if the car was significantly damaged
- Any accidents, airbag deploying, total losses, and odometer inconsistency
- If the car has a lien on it
While the information might sometimes be incomplete, they are pretty detailed. And this valuable information can help you decide if you want to buy a used vehicle.
Using Carfax for a used bike
While Carfax is a valuable website for used cars, it is not entirely reliable for used bikes.
You can use it only for certain motorcycles. The Carfax database does not have the VINs of all motorcycles. This is because they do not collect data on motorcycles.
And even the motorcycle history report you get may not have much information.
For example, it may not have information on whether the used bike has been in an accident. Motorcycle owners often repair their bikes on their own or use independent workshops. These are not reported to the authorities.
Also, if they have been in an accident, they may not report it to the police or insurance companies. So, Carfax will not have any of this information.
But due to Carfax’s solid reputation, many people rely on it.
And there is also the fact that you can find some motorcycle information on it. This means that potential buyers sometimes back out if there is no Carfax report, which is wrong.
Important note: If you are looking at a used bike that doesn’t have a report from Carfax, remember it is not a bad sign.
Carfax versus Autocheck
Autocheck is another option to check vehicle history reports, like Carfax.
Both websites are the most prominent sources of vehicle history reports. AutoCheck also has exclusive access to large auctions in the US. This allows them to provide a comprehensive history of used cars.
But, like Carfax, AutoCheck is also designed for cars and light trucks. You may find information for some bikes, but the list is limited.
Use the website at your discretion.
How to get a free motorcycle history report
It is a good idea to check if Carfax has a report on the used bike you are looking at. But in case there is no information, you do have other options.
Earlier, you could get motorcycle history reports only at the DMV (department of motor vehicles) after paying a fee.
But today, you can get a report for free on the internet. Here is how to do it.
First, find the bike’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This unique identifier is assigned to each motorcycle (like your Social Security Number). A VIN consists of 17 characters containing both numbers and letters.
You can find the VIN stamped on different places on a bike. But for most models, you can find it either at the steering column base or the bottom of the cylinder. It can also be on the frame. Here’s where you will find it on my Kawasaki Zx-10R.
Once you find the VIN of the bike, there are several websites where you can do a free motorcycle VIN check. These websites include VinFreeCheck, VINCheck, Faxvin, and Vinpit.
You can enter the VIN and get a free report there.
The report will include collision reports, history records, odometer readings, pricing, and more.
Other free sources to check a motorcycle VIN.
You can check other free sources for reports on a motorcycle VIN. They include NICB.org, NHTSA, IIHS, and NADAGuides. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) will have information on serious fraud or theft. Or if someone salvaged the used motorcycle.
Additionally, manufacturers’ websites or your car dealer could also have relevant information.
But, do note that the 17-character VIN came into use only in 1981. And most websites will have information only from that year onwards. Also, the free VIN check report may not be the full report. Many motorcycle owners do not report everything.
A VIN can also be cloned or copied. So if you find that two motorcycles share the same VIN, it is likely that one of them is a salvage vehicle or stolen.
What if you cannot find the bike’s VIN?
To get vehicle history reports, you can use the license plate number on the same websites (given above). But unlike a free motorcycle VIN check, you will need to pay a small fee for these reports.
You can also do a motorcycle Title search, the same as running a vehicle history report. But the Title history check is rarely done for free.
What to check when buying a used bike
When buying a second-hand motorcycle, you need to check the model and the complete history. Hence the VIN check. It can also tell you if it is a stolen vehicle.
And if the VIN check has information missing, you can ask the seller to provide it. It is a red flag if the seller cannot provide the information.
You should check the condition of the engine, brakes, suspension, and clutch. The state of the bike should also match its history as per the VIN history. For example, if it was in a significant accident, the bike’s condition should reflect that.
You should check the condition of the bike when it is cold. If you are not confident, you can ask a trusted mechanic to look over the bike for you.
Make sure you know all the details of the model of the bike you are eyeing. This way, you can identify if you find one part is missing or replaced by a part from a different model.
And, of course, always take the bike on a test run before making a final decision.
Buying a used bike can be a gamble. And since it’s your money on the line, knowing about the vehicle’s history is essential information.
Carfax is a good option to try your luck and discover the bike’s history.
But do remember that you cannot depend on it. So, do your research before you go ahead and make that important buy.