Car Research Tools: Investigator Guide to Auto Manufacturers and Associations


How to Use Car Research Tools

Private investigators rely on car research tools for a multitude of reasons, leveraging these resources to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their investigations. Here’s an overview of key reasons why these professionals find such tools indispensable:

  • Vehicle Identification: Car research tools enable private investigators to quickly and accurately identify vehicles, providing crucial details such as make, model, year, and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). This information forms the foundation of many investigations.
  • Ownership Verification: Investigating vehicle ownership is a fundamental aspect of many cases. Car research tools help private investigators confirm ownership details, allowing them to trace vehicles back to individuals and uncover important connections.
  • Background Checks: Private investigators often need to conduct thorough background checks on individuals. Car research tools provide insights into a person’s automotive history, including previous ownership, accident reports, and any liens associated with a particular vehicle. Learn more about backgrond checks and public records searches.
  • Asset Location: For cases involving financial investigations or legal proceedings, car research tools aid private investigators in locating and assessing valuable assets, including vehicles owned by the subject of their investigation.
  • Insurance Claims Investigations: When dealing with insurance fraud or accident investigations, car research tools assist private investigators in verifying the accuracy of claims, assessing vehicle damage, and identifying potential discrepancies in reported incidents.
  • Missing Persons or Runaways: In cases involving missing persons or runaways, knowing the details of a person’s vehicle can be crucial. Car research tools help investigators track down individuals by identifying and locating their registered vehicles.
  • Surveillance Planning: Car research tools contribute to effective surveillance planning by providing information about a subject’s typical routes, parking locations, and the vehicles they use. This insight enhances the overall success of surveillance operations.
  • Criminal Investigations: In cases involving criminal activities, car research tools assist private investigators in connecting individuals to specific vehicles, aiding law enforcement in apprehending suspects and building a comprehensive case.
  • Fraud Prevention: Private investigators use car research tools to uncover potential fraud, whether it’s related to odometer tampering, title washing, or other deceptive practices. This information is crucial for preventing clients from falling victim to scams.

In essence, car research tools empower private investigators with the data needed to unravel complex cases, validate claims, and deliver accurate, actionable intelligence to their clients. These tools are invaluable assets in the modern investigative toolkit, enhancing the capabilities of professionals in the field.

AutoCheck Vehicle History Report

AutoCheck (check CJ) provides a report that allows you to search by the vehicle identification number (VIN) or 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 describes any accidents or damage resulting from 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 somehow.
  • Any reports of water damage may have occurred during a flood or significant weather events, such as a tornado, tropical storm, or hurricane.
  • Certified Pre-owned Vehicle – This vehicle has been inspected, repairs have been made, and a factory warranty has backed the car. The vehicle has gone through a multi-point inspection or series of repairs.
  • Structural Damage – All minor to severe accidents 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 because of theft. When an insurance company acquires a vehicle due to a total loss settlement, 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 on 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

CARFAX Reports contain essential 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 a driver’s background, 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 continuously analyzing 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 specializing in the automotive industry, dealing with strategic issues, and is more flexible and affordable than large generalist firms. AutoPOLIS works with companies in all key sectors of the auto business, financial institutions, national governments, and international agencies. We provide practical insight, impartial comments,s 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) – Worldwide 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 vast 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 their data and conduct 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 formed to represent auto manufacturers and dealers worldwide. The associations often provide access to various research reports and information on vehicles, recalls, broad investigations, etc. These resources may be helpful to a private investigator who specializes in accident reconstruction and investigations.

They may also be helpful for private eyes who 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 is 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 significant European cars, truck, and bus manufacturers in the European Union
  • National Automobile Dealers Association– NADA Online was Founded in 1917. NADA represents more than 20,000 new car and truck dealers, with more than 43,000 domestic and international franchises nationwide.
  • 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 nationally accredited provider of low-cost drug testing, state drug testing, Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing, and occupational accident programs for the Trucking Industry, including free drug testing programs for trucking, transportation, and 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. The manufacturer’s website is a great place to start if you need to research a particular vehicle.

  • 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 member of the Volkswagen Group that designs, engineers, produces, markets, and distributes luxury vehicles.
  • Bentley– A high-end, luxury car manufacturer
  • BMW is a German automaker well-known for consistently making high-quality, high-performance vehicles for decades.
  • Buick – uick, a luxury brand under the General Motors umbrella, combines refined craftsmanship with advanced technology, offering a range of premium vehicles known for their comfort and elegance.
  • Cadillac – As the epitome of American luxury, Cadillac crafts sophisticated vehicles that blend cutting-edge technology with opulent design, delivering a driving experience synonymous with prestige.
  • Chevrolet – Chevrolet, a cornerstone of American automotive culture, produces a diverse lineup of vehicles known for their reliability, innovation, and a commitment to making driving accessible to all.
  • Chrysler – Chrysler, a part of the Stellantis group, creates vehicles that embody a harmonious blend of style, performance, and advanced features, catering to those seeking a refined driving experience.
  • Daewoo – Historically a South Korean automaker, Daewoo gained recognition for its compact and economical vehicles, providing reliable transportation solutions with a focus on efficiency.
  • Dodge – Dodge, renowned for its performance-oriented vehicles, combines muscle-car heritage with modern design, offering a lineup of powerful and stylish cars and SUVs.
  • Eagle – While no longer in production, Eagle, a former marque under the Chrysler Corporation, was known for producing a range of versatile vehicles with a focus on innovation and practicality.
  • Fiat / Chrysler (now Stellantis) – The result of a merger, FCA (now Stellantis) encompasses brands like Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Chrysler, offering a diverse lineup of vehicles including SUVs, trucks, and sedans.
  • Ford – Known for its iconic Ford Mustang and F-Series trucks, Ford is a pioneer in the automotive industry and continues to be a major player in the American market.
  • General Motors – One of the largest American car manufacturers, GM produces a wide range of vehicles under various brands such as Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, and Buick.
  • Harley-Davidson
  • Honda Cars – While based in Japan, Honda has a significant presence in the American market, producing various popular vehicles such as the Accord, Civic, and CR-V.
  • Hyundai – The South Korean conglomerate includes the Hyundai and Kia brands, producing various vehicles that have gained popularity for their affordability and quality.
  • Infiniti – The luxury vehicle division of Nissan, offers premium cars and SUVs known for their innovative technology, comfort, and performance since its inception in 1989.
  • Isuzu – Isuzu Motors Ltd., established in 1916 in Japan, specializes in commercial vehicles and diesel engines, renowned for their durability and efficiency in global markets.
  • Jaguar
  • Jeep
  • Kawasaki
  • Kia
  • Lexus
  • Lincoln
  • Mazda – A Japanese automaker focusing on driving dynamics, Mazda produces a range of stylish and sporty vehicles, such as the Mazda3 and MX-5 Miata.
  • Mercedes Benz – A German luxury car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz is recognized for its high-end vehicles that combine performance, technology, and luxury.
  • Mercury
  • Mitsubishi
  • Nissan – Nissan, a Japanese automaker, has a substantial manufacturing and sales presence in the United States, offering a range of vehicles from compact cars to SUVs and trucks.
  • Oldsmobile
  • Pontiac
  • Porsche
  • Saab
  • Saturn
  • Subaru – Renowned for its all-wheel-drive vehicles, Subaru has carved a niche in the American market with its rugged yet practical lineup, including models like the Outback and Forester.
  • Suzuki
  • Tesla – A leading electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla is known for its innovative electric cars, including the Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y.
  • Toyota – Another Japanese automaker with a major U.S. presence, Toyota is known for its reliable and fuel-efficient vehicles, including the Camry, Corolla, and RAV4.
  • Volvo – A Swedish brand known for its commitment to safety and luxury, Volvo produces a variety of cars and SUVs that appeal to consumers seeking a premium driving experience.
  • 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 various research tools and resources for determining the value of new and used cars. This is one of the most valuable 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 car features and specs comparisons, detailed expert and user reviews of the latest makes and models, and buying and leasing guides. You can search for 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 various motorcycle brands and types. Includes information on related products and accessories and discussion forums.
  • NASCAR– A website for racing fans.
  • List of Police Vehicles
  • – 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 automobile repossession associations. This is a repossession directory of the country’s finest, most established recovery agents.

Related Information

Automobile Accident Investigations and Reconstruction – Learn about the accident investigation and reconstruction process.

If you have any questions about this car research tool list, please comment below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


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