Don’t just rely just on a Carfax report when buying a used car. You may want to check with your local auto body shop.

We recently had a customer come in because she had a minor accident. In the process of reviewing the damage, we found her car, which she had purchased a few weeks ago, had prior unrepaired damage.

The customer was frustrated because she thought she’d done her homework and reviewed the dealer-provided Carfax report. The issue is consumers can’t rely just on a Carfax report.

Let’s first review what Carfax is: Carfax is a reporting system that is a snapshot of data records on registered vehicles. It gathers information from police departments, insurance companies, DMVs, and auction houses to piece together a history on nearly every car out there.

The records included in a Carfax report tell you things you wouldn’t know by just going for a test drive or having a mechanic inspect the car. The report may include:

  • Odometer readings and repair history
  • Number of past owners
  • Any accidents reported by DMVs, insurance companies, or police departments
  • Whether the car’s a lemon or been salvaged or junked
  • Whether a car was ever used as a fleet vehicle, autos used by businesses and often subject to lots of abuse
  • Lien and repossession history
  • Emission inspection statuses
  • Manufacturer recalls and buybacks

Why you shouldn’t just rely on a Carfax report only?

The data collected is not real-time. Example is not all accidents are reported in a timely manner. Please ensure the report you are given is the most current report.

Although Carfax has an extensive database to gather car facts, the vehicle’s history may have holes. Unfortunately, many people fail to report an accident or don’t turn accident damage into their insurance company. As a result, these reports may not show whether or not a vehicle has been in a prior crash.

A great example is rental car fleets. Rental car companies are generally self-insured, which means that when a rental car is in an accident the rental car company’s in-house insurance agency handles the claim. This in-house insurance company may not report to Carfax, whereas all of the traditional consumer insurance agencies do.

This is why it is extremely important that you have a pre-purchase inspection completed on any used vehicle you are considering purchasing. The pre-purchase inspection will shed light on any issues the vehicle has that may not have been reported to Carfax yet.

When in doubt, always ask for a second opinion on the condition of the vehicle at your local auto body shop, not just for possible body damage but for the mechanical health of the vehicle. Glaser’s Collision Centers are here to help.