How to Use Car Research Tools
Private investigators are often hired by private citizens to conduct investigations related to vehicles. Vehicles may be involved for a number of different reasons, such as repossession due to a defaulted loan, stolen cars, car collectors, and many other reasons. Private detectives should be knowledgeable about car research tools in general and in using information service providers to run vehicle search reports for their clients.
Following are examples of the various types of automobile / vehicle-related reports that investigators should know how to produce for their clients:
AutoCheck Vehicle History Report
AutoCheck (check CJ) provides a report that allows you to search by the vehicle identification number (VIN) or by the license plate number to find the car you wish to research. Once you subscribe, the vehicle history can be viewed.
Records of Damage
- The report provides a description of any accidents or damage events that occurred as a result of car accidents, vandalism or theft. It is important to note that drivers don’t always report damage or theft that occurs on their vehicles. This portion of the report only provides information on what was officially reported.
- The report shows if the vehicle was reported as a “lemon”, assuming the state has lemon laws.
- Any odometer inconsistencies are reported, which may indicate that the mileage was rolled back or tampered with in some way.
- Includes any reports of water damages, which may have occurred during a flood or major weather event such as a tornado, tropical storm or hurricane.
- Certified Pre-owned Vehicle – This vehicle has been inspected, needed repairs have been made and the car has been backed by a factory warranty. The vehicle has gone through a multi-point inspection or series of repairs.
- Structural Damage – All levels of accidents from minor to severe can cause structural damage to a vehicle. (ex: damage to the frame or body).
- Salvage Title Brand – A salvage vehicle is a vehicle that has been wrecked or damaged beyond repair; declared a total loss by the insurer; or declared a total loss by reason of theft. When an insurance company as a result of a total loss settlement acquires a vehicle, the insurance company must apply for a Salvage Certificate. If the owner retains possession of a salvage vehicle, the owner must obtain a Salvage Certificate before receiving a total loss statement from the insurance company.
- Police Use – Reports as to whether the vehicle is or was used by a police agency.
- Taxi/Fleet/Rental Use – This vehicle is or was used as a taxi or rental car, is or was used as a lease.
- Theft & Theft Recovery – The vehicle was stolen from its legal owner and/or the vehicle was previously reported as stolen and has been recovered.
CARFAX Reports contain important information that can help you make a more informed decision about a used car, truck or SUV, including Vehicle Registration, Frame/structural damage, Salvaged, Junked or Flood titles, Accident indicators, Odometer readings, Service and repair information, Lemon history, Vehicle usage (taxi, rental, lease, etc.), Total loss accident history, recall information and more.
Driver History Checks
Private Investigators are also called upon to investigate the background of a driver, such as their driving history, whether or not they have a valid license, etc. For more information, see our Background Checks page. Also see our list of DMV offices.
List of Car Research Tools
Following are websites that provide marketing research and auto analysis:
Autofacts – The Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) Automotive Institute is a team of industry specialists dedicated to the continuous analysis of the global automotive industry. The institute’s service offerings include insightful Analyst Briefings, the new Analyst Notes information service, and the proprietary Global Light Vehicle Assembly and Powertrain Consumption Forecast. Delivers deep analytical support for PwC’s Global Automotive Practice, which includes 1,600 professionals in over 50 countries, providing professional services to many of the world’s most successful companies.
Autopolis – AutoPOLIS was founded in 1993 as a consulting firm that specializes in the automotive industry, deals with strategic issues, and is more flexible and affordable than the large generalist firms. autoPOLIS works with companies in all key sectors of the auto business, financial institutions, and national governments and international agencies. We provide practical insight, impartial comment and objective advice about the industry.
IHS Markit – A research company that provides industry-leading marketing insights and solutions that begin with the most robust automotive information available. Polk uses a network of global resources to develop insight and intelligence for the industry.
International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) – World-wide organization of law enforcement and insurance fraud investigation professionals.
Jato Dynamics – JATO Dynamics is the leading supplier of automotive market intelligence delivering the world’s most complete, accurate and up-to-date databases of vehicle prices and specifications, industry news including incentives information, sales and registrations data including forecasting.
MIRA – World-leading automotive testing facility. Provides product engineering, testing, research, and information services to the automotive industry.
Ward’s Auto – A huge collection of automotive industry research, auto research reports, magazines, data, and analysis for worldwide providers of cars and trucks. Ward’s website allows you to search and browse through their data and conduct your own industry research.
Valient – Valient’s automotive and transportation research (ATR) practice is the world’s leading automotive and transportation industry market research supplier providing business-to-consumer and business-to-business services through its proprietary market research service offerings and world-class multi-client studies.
List of Automobile Associations and Auto Industry Groups
Automobile Associations are usually tax-exempt, non-profit organizations that are formed to represent auto manufacturers and dealers around the world. The associations often provide access to a variety of research and reports, as well as information on vehicles, recalls, broad investigations and much more. These resources may be useful to a private investigator who specializes in accident reconstruction and investigations.
They may also be useful for private eyes who simply need to dig deeper into auto-related matters to find more information for their client. Following are links to some of the more prominent automobile association websites around the world:
- American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators– The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that strives to develop model programs in motor vehicle administration, police traffic services, and highway safety. The association serves as an information clearinghouse for vehicle administration, and highway safety, and acts as the international spokesman for these interests.
- American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA)– The AIADA was established in 1970, the AIADA represents, serves, and protects America’s international nameplate dealers.
- Association of European Auto Makers (ACEA)– Association that represents the thirteen major European cars, truck and bus manufacturers in the European Union
- National Automobile Dealers Association– The NADA Online was Founded in 1917, the NADA represents more than 20,000 new car and truck dealers, with more than 43,000 franchises nationwide, both domestic and international.
- North American Transportation Association– The NTA is a National Transportation Benefits Organization (TBO) dedicated to providing services, benefits, and information to small and medium transportation-related private fleets, trucking companies and independent owner-operators. A national accredited provider of, low-cost drug testing, state drug testing, Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing, occupational accident programs for the Trucking Industry including free drug testing programs for trucking, transportation, fleets including Independent Owner Operators.
List of Car Manufacturer Websites
The automotive industry designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and sells motor vehicles, and is one of the world’s most important economic sectors by revenue. The term automotive industry usually does not include industries dedicated to vehicles after delivery to the customer, such as repair shops and motor fuel filling stations. If you need to conduct research on a particular vehicle, the manufacturer’s website is a great place to start.
- Acura – Acura has been setting new standards in automotive design and engineering for two decades through bold innovation, a refined sense of aesthetics, and precision manufacturing.
- Alfa Romeo – Italian manufacturer
- Aston Martin (UK) – Aston Martin is a British manufacturer of luxury sports cars.
- Audi – Audi is a German manufacturer that is a member of the Volkswagen Group that designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury vehicles.
- Bentley– A high-end, luxury car manufacturer
- BMW– German automaker, well-known for consistently making quality, high-performance vehicles for decades.
- General Motors
- Honda Cars
- Honda Motorcycles
- Volkswagen –
The Volkswagen Group with its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of automobiles and commercial vehicles and the largest carmaker in Europe.
Other Car Research Tools and Resources
- AutoByTel – Resources for learning about and buying vehicles
- AutoWeb – Simple search engine for buying automobiles.
- AutoWeek – News, shows, driving schools, reviews.
- Blue Book – Lookup values and prices. Kelley Bluebook has a wide variety of research tools and resources for determining the value of new and used cars. This is one of the most useful resources for auto-related information.
- Car & Driver – Reviews from industry experts and enthusiasts.
- Edmunds – One of the definitive websites for car research. Edmunds provides such helpful features as side-by-side comparisons of car features and specs, detailed expert and user reviews of the latest makes and models, buying and leasing guides. You can even search new and used cars, lock in upfront pricing and get exclusive extras.
- Motor Trend – A popular magazine for driving enthusiasts.
- Motorcycle Online – Provides detailed information and reviews on a variety of motorcycle brands and types. Includes information on related products and accessories and discussion forums.
- NASCAR– A website for racing fans.
- List of Police Vehicles
- Transportation.gov – Website for the U.S. Department of Transportation
Auto Repossession and Recovery Services
The following are recovery and repossession resources. Vehicles are repossessed when buyers default on the repayment of the debt on the car, usually in the form of an installment loan). When buyers stop paying the loan or miss too many payments, the owner of the debt contracts with companies or individuals that provide automobile repossession services. Providers of these services are often known as “repo” services or “repo men.
Private investigators sometimes specialize in providing repossession services. To hire a private investigator, please visit our Private Investigator Directory.
American Recovery Association – The American Recovery Association (ARA) is an organization of over 275 professional repossession agents in all fifty states and some foreign countries. The American Recovery Association is the largest and most respected of all automobile repossession associations. This is a repossession directory of the finest, most established recovery agents in the country.
Automobile Accident Investigations and Reconstruction – Learn about the accident investigation and reconstruction process.
If you have any questions about this list of car research tools, please post a comment below.