How reliable and useful are they when getting info on a used car? How much do they cost to get?
I would start here. It costs $34.99.
I’ve heard they are sometimes not accurate but I would still think it might be a good investment.
They’re an aid in making a decision but you should not put a lot of faith into CF. They only report what is reported to them so this means it can be incomplete and inaccurate; as many people have discovered after the fact.
I ran all of my cars and my family members cars through CF a few years ago and found serious problems listed on over half of them. The oddity was that these problems did not or ever did exist.
My previous SAAB (one owner before me) was reported on CF as “currently stolen”. Needless to say, the original owner, myself, and the DMW all disagreed with that.
That’s what I kinda figured, that it only reflects what is reported and there is no guarenteed that it is correct so I can’t really see spending $35 on “possibily” correct info.
I think Car Fax is great. They say no damage ever to any of our cars yet they all have been in the body shop for one thing or another, (some major some minor). But since we didn’t fix them through insurance (I guess) nothing shows up in the history. And 1 also shows up as stolen even though my aunt and I have been the only owners and I do have a clean title.
CarFax is great only as an example of a successful scam. Why, oh why, doesn’t one of our protector agencies investigate them and at least require “full disclosure”.
I think what CarFax has evolved into more than anything else is a sales tool for car lots.
Dealers put those banners up about providing a free CF report and a potential car buyer will assume (often incorrectly) that any car they buy off that lot must be mechanically sound because the CF says so.
Another example of CF about my cars. I totalled out a Subaru I owned and since I loved the car chose to fix it myself. Everything from the windshield forward had to be changed. The car was re-issued a Salvage Title and it remained on an Oklahoma Salvage Title for almost 8 years until I sold the car.
What did CF show? A clean and clear title the entire time.
I used CarFax about 6 or 7 years ago when I was shopping for a used vehicle. Where I found it useful was in eliminating from consideration vehicles I otherwise might have bought. One vehicle I looked at showed 14 previous owners, another showed it had been titled showing 50,000 more miles than what was currently on the odometer. That saved me the time and expense of having my mechanic check out those vehicles.
At the time, you could buy a 30 day subscription which allowed you to enter as many V.I.N. numbers as you wanted. I do not know if you can still buy that subscription or not because I am not in the market for a vehicle now. If I were shopping for a vehicle, I would definitely want such a subscription, especially if I were looking to buy from a private party.
I agree with ok4450 that CarFax has evolved into a “sales tool for car lots.” Remember that a dealer is not going to provide you with any information that would discourage you from buying their vehicle.
As an aside; while I had the 30 day unlimited subscription, I keyed in V.I.N.'s from vehicles “in the family” that I knew the histories of. One vehicle I KNEW had had 3 owners showed up as a one-owner vehicle. A vehicle I had traded in showed a clean title with 20,000 miles less than what it had when I traded it in.
is there any source out there that gives a better history of a vehicle then car fax?
It’s a nice piece of information to have when looking at a used car, but I would NOT base my buying decision solely on the CarFax report.
There can be a LOT missing.
If I were shopping for cars in the lower price ranges I’m not sure I’d spend the money for a CarFax report.
A private seller with a file full of maintenace records for the vehicle in question is a better source of vehicle history than CarFax.