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 |  Jun 07 2010, 7:05 PM

If you’re on the go and looking to do a little homework on that used car you’re thinking of buying, then InstaVIN is for you. A new text-message-based accident-history report search system, InstaVIN is free for a limited time and works along the same lines as CarFax.

Here’s how it works: customers text a car’s vehicle identification number to InstaVIN, and within a few seconds, you get a report on that car’s accident history. You also get pricing information that is culled from data using recent transaction and the accident history reports. Claiming to be more accurate than a CarFax report, it also comes at a cheaper price (CarFax’s accident, service and other car history data will run you about $34.99. MobileTrac, the company behind InstaVIN, charges $1.99 for accident reports and $6.99 vehicle history reports).

Says MobileTrac CEO Jim Irish: “Our data is delivered in real time, so unlike CarFax, we don’t collect data sources and update it four times a year. We ping all of our data sources within seconds and get back what the report. CarFax does not do that. They buy data and update it quarterly.”

And it helps that InstaVIN is easy to use. This patent-pending service allows you to text the last eight digits of a vehicle’s VIN number to “INSTA” or 46782, and you’ll instantly receive an accident history report via SMS messaging. It works with SMS text messaging on virtually all phones and carriers and is not limited to a particular phone application. It’s great for dealers too, as it allows instant access to real-time information that is updated continuously, and it includes a “Vehicle Valuator” guide, featuring real-time vehicle values with available inventory, based on local market data.

The trial offer ends June 30, so give it a test drive for free while you still can. To try the text-message reporting just sent a VIN to 46782 and they’ll send you one free report.

 |  Jun 03 2010, 2:11 PM


Buying a used car can seem like a daunting task. Do you go to a dealership or try your luck on Craigslist? What happens if you want to sell your car? There is plenty to keep in mind, and before buying or selling your vehicle, you should arm yourself with all the facts before making the plunge.

If you’re the one doing the buying, make sure that what you’re agreeing to purchase is what is really promised – especially if it’s a private sale from an individual. These cars come without a warranty, so if this is a major concern, stick to a new car or a dealership.

Keep these tips in mind when looking to buy or sell a used car:

  • What’s the car worth? Whether you’re buying or selling, this information is crucial, so do some research on the web. There are plenty of sites out there, including Autoguide’s used car section.
  • Take the used car to a trusted mechanic for inspection and look to see if that particular vehicles has ever been recalled (you can find out this information at It’s also smart to ask what work has already been done on that vehicle.
  • If you’re selling your car and not planning on replacing it, you need to remove your license plates and surrender them to the DMV.
  • Sellers need to sign the title over to the buyer and then bring it to the DMV to get a new title and registration.
  • Some US states and all Canadian provinces require a Bill of Sale, which includes year/make/model, VIN, mileage, sale price and buyer and seller contact information (address and phone). If you’re selling a used vehicle in Canada, you need to supply the buyer with Used Vehicle Information Package (you can download it from If you’re in a state that doesn’t require it, it’s still a good idea to document the transaction fully, as well as to exchange driver’s license numbers.
  • Buyers beware of online scammer sites. It’s a good idea to buy a used car locally, so you can see it and test it before you decide buy. There are risks with online sites that offer to ship and collect money through a third-party program.

[Source: Consumer Reports]