Buying a used car can be nerve-racking since we never really know where that car has been or what it’s been through.
However, title searches and vehicle history reports are making the used car buying process a little bit easier to handle.
One of the major players in this area is Carfax, who claims to have a vehicle’s true history in order to ensure that you’re making a safe purchase.
For just $54.99 you can get unlimited vehicle reports, or get a single vehicle report for $39.99.
Below I’ve outlined the pros and cons of using services such as Carfax to find the true history of a vehicle before you buy.
The Benefits of CarFax
1) Accident Information
Carfax says that they are able to track all the accidents that have taken place in a car. This includes whether the car was totaled and rebuilt, or if it was involved in a minor accident. By knowing this information, you can determine whether there are original parts and what kind of trauma the car has been through.
2) Car Recalls and Safety Concerns
Certain cars (especially the first cars in a new model) have problems that are just a part of that type of car. Carfax allows the user to research any recalls or other problems (electrical, comfort, suspension) associated with certain models of cars.
3) Odometer Fraud
Sellers have the ability to roll back odometer readings, which can potentially cost buyers thousands of dollars. Carfax states that their vehicle history report can identify potential odometer fraud.
4) Title Check
A Carfax report can help ensure that the car you are buying has a clean title. While there are lemon laws that protect unknowing consumers, paying a small amount of money is worth avoiding the legal headache. The report also identifies any stolen cars.
5) Operating Costs
Carfax has averaged the costs it takes to maintain and repair certain cars. By knowing in advance the amount of money it will take to maintain and repair your car, you can budget for those costs. Additionally, it can potentially identify the weaknesses of certain cars.
The Downsides To CarFax
While most of the time the Carfax reports are accurate, there can be some instances where Carfax is not accurate. If you look at some of the consumer websites online (Consumer Reports), there are reports that some of the information Carfax provided was incorrect and ended up costing the buyer thousands of dollars.
The most important concern is to validate that the car has a clean title. You may want to check multiple sources to verify this.
2) Seller’s problems
Picture this – you’re selling your car and you find out that Carfax is listing incorrect information – what do you do? Well according to some of the consumer websites, not much. One site listed one story indicating the seller sent all his car records to Carfax in order for them to update their information. However, Carfax refused. Therefore, it’s better to check your car’s information sooner rather than later to be sure it will not hurt you in the future when you sell your own car.
More About Carfax
- CarFax Sued Over Vehicle-History Reports — from ABC News
- Can You Trust Carfax? — from ABC’s 20/20
- Carfax Is Borderline Scam — from car owners on Reddit
- Are CarFax Reports Reliable? – from NBC
The Bottom Line On A Carfax Vehicle History Report
While you never can be 100% sure about the accuracy of the Carfax information, I think it is worth $40 to find out what is listed in the Carfax report. More information is always better when you’re buying a car. Therefore, if you are going to make the major purchase of a car, $40 is definitely worth paying.
However getting a Carfax report is only one part of the equation in telling the true history of a vehicle. You should also explore the car’s Vehicle Identification Number and get these 2 FREE vehicle history reports: VinCheck and AutoCheck.
If you have any experience with Carfax — positive or negative — please share in the comments below.
I’m a Financial Consultant and Personal Financial Representative with experience in financial analysis, strategic planning, presenting, & financial advisory services.