Buying a “new to you” car is both exciting and stressful. You want to find a deal for the right price, but make sure you avoid that “lemon” at all cost. If you end up with the wrong car, you’ll likely be calling someone like ML Towing to rescue you off the side of the road. Beyond being stranded, you could be caught with costly repairs such as a transmission or possibly an entire engine, which can end up costing more than your original purchase price.
CARFAX has become a go-to for vehicle purchase, but this report won’t tell you everything you need to know. Learn the facts so that you can educate yourself before making a purchase.
Information included in a CARFAX report
CARFAX creates a highly comprehensive vehicle history report for Canadian and American cars built after 1981. That’s most vehicles on the road in the U.S. today. Using the vehicle identification number, or VIN, prospective buyers can retrieve vehicle data from over 100,000 data sources including the fire department, police department, auctions, collision repair, rental agencies, and licensing.
Some specific details included in reports according to CARFAX include:
- Title information, including salvaged or junked titles
- History of water damage from flood or storms
- Accident history including total loss claims
- Odometer readings
- Repair records indicating a lemon
- Total number of owners
- Airbag deployments and other accident indicators
- Results from state emissions testing
- Records of service and regular maintenance including oil changes
- Vehicle use detailing whether this car was used as Uber, Lyft, pizza delivery, or as a rental.
Quite comprehensive, this report will give you any data that can be tracked based on VIN number. The company is an excellent tool to reduce your risk of buying a lemon, and when used correctly these reports are so effective the company offers a purchase guarantee. CARFAX offers an excellent place to start your vehicle research, but there is additional information you need to know. Understanding these limitations will help you make the best decision possible.
Information a CARFAX won’t Reveal
Since a CARFAX vehicle history is based on reported data, it won’t be able to reveal information that wasn’t reported. If a driver delivered Chinese food for a small restaurant, they may not report this employment to their insurance, but the car still gets consisted wear and tear from city driving. Consider a car that isn’t registered or if oil changes and repair are all done at home — again, there won’t be a record. That bumper dent from parallel parking may never be reported at all.
The lack of reporting can be especially detrimental in the case of a total loss accident that doesn’t result in an insurance claim. Wrecks can stay off the title in many states due to self-insurance, like fleet cars, no insurance, or if the claim falls below a specific insurance threshold. Less reputable sellers may fix any visible damage, and then market the car as if this damage never happened. Don’t forget about foreign cars and vintage cars too, since CARFAX does not extend beyond the United States and Canada, or have information for older, classic cars.
How to Make the Best Purchase
CARFAX is an excellent purchasing tool. It provides buyers with information that can indicate the use, condition, and history of a previously owned vehicle and greatly reduce the risk of a purchase. But don’t stop there.
Use CARFAX reports in conjunction with other information so you don’t miss anything. Try comparing your CARFAX with an alternative report like:
See what information matches and what looks different. Major discrepancies can indicate a problem. Never skip an in-person check with a mechanic, as well as a test drive. A physical evaluation of the vehicle should be the last word in our decision-making process. Combine your research with your in-person car experience to give you the best odds of finding an excellent vehicle. Good luck car shopping!