Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Carfax reports - a great start, but don't trust them completely

In the latest print version of Consumer Reports, there is an article that details why it isn't prudent to completely trust Carfax and other used vehicle history reports (AutoCheck & VINCheck included).

While these reports are great at documenting the official history of a car - when it was bought, when it was sold, what the mileage was when it was sold and whether the car was totaled, Consumer Reports found that cars that are involved in serious accidents but are NOT totaled don't necessarily get an entry in its Carfax record. These types of cars can have clean Carfax records even with serious repair and body work. In fact these cars that have clean titles fetch more money at auto auctions since the clean title will allow shady dealers to sell the repaired car as having a clean Carfax record.

As a part of the due diligence of buying a used car, just keep in mind that a clean Carfax or other type vehicle history report shouldn't be the only factor you look at when purchasing a used car. Make sure you inspect the car for any visibly repaired body damage (to name a few):

- misaligned fenders with the body
- different shades of paint on the car
- different textures of paint on the car
- over spray of paint onto surfaces that should have paint on them (like the wheel wells)

All of these things can tell you if a car has been repaired or not. For more minor damage, there is a good chance there is no entry for the incident on these reports either. If you need to, bring along a friend who knows cars or have the car inspected by a professional mechanic.

I personally think Carfax and the other report services are great - these reports provide access to car history information that once was near impossible to get. Just don't forget to use these reports as one of the many factors you should evaluate before buying a used car.

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