How reliable are vehicle history reports?

By Product Expert | Posted in Tips and Tricks on Thursday, April 11th, 2019 at 8:23 am
Two humans use electronic devices for unknown purposes while sitting on a couch. They might be checking Vehicle History Reports.

What CARFAX isn’t Telling You

When buying a used car, a highly recommended step is to get a vehicle history report. Ideally, this report lets you know all pertinent information regarding the past lives of the vehicle and whether or not it’s going to fall apart the moment you get it off the dealer’s lot.

The most common vehicle report service is CARFAX. Generally, a used-vehicle dealer will pay for a CARFAX report on the vehicle you’re considering, but you have to ask for it. We’re going to see if CARFAX is a fully reliable source for vehicle history. But first, lets look at what CARFAX does and how it does it.

Hand holds a pen and fills out a form.What does CARFAX do?

By entering a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into the CARFAX database, you can receive what is ideally a full report on the history of the vehicle. The information provided includes such important tidbits as vehicle ownership, accident history, mileage discrepancies, lemon status, flood damage, fleet use, and more. It should also provide you with knowledge of odometer rollbacks, failed emissions tests, and select service records.

Where does CARFAX get its information?

CARFAX gets its information from various motor vehicle bureaus across the U.S. and Canada, along with insurance companies, auto auctions, repair and service facilities, rental companies, state inspection stations, fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and vehicle manufacturers. These are its main sources, though there are others too.

How reliable is Carfax?

While CARFAX is a great place to start on researching a potential purchase, don’t rely on it to tell the whole story. Since CARFAX depends on information from the above sources, it will neglect problems that were not reported, recorded, or properly retrieved. There have been examples of CARFAX both recommending against what is a perfectly functioning vehicle, and also neglecting to report major accidents or lemon recalls.

This is why it’s highly recommended to take the vehicle to a trustworthy mechanic who can give it a thorough check. It’s going to be more costly, but this will give you the essential information of the vehicle’s current condition and functionality. Sometimes, vehicles that have been in major wrecks (which looks like a huge red flag on CARFAX), may actually be in quite good order. The opposite is also true.

In addition, it’s good to ask the dealer (such as us folks at Third Coast Auto Group) for information about the warranty and repairs that have been performed. They will be happy to tell you to help make the purchasing decision that’s right for you.

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