Carfax a sham company?

You know, while trying to find a reliable car that has ABS for around 10K, I noticed that lots of dealers use the ‘carfax 1-owner!’ gimmick(?) as a plus.

Well, actually looking at the carfax report, and while it is true that it is 1 owner, that doesn’t mean 1 driver!

Most of these are rental cars, or auctioned off cars, and I really don’t see how that is a plus in any form!

What gives, is carfax in the tank with dealers or what? I still can’t find out who carfax pays to get the detailed records from cars.

Seems to be pretty worthless, except in some extreme circumstances, like if car was in a flood or some things like that. Even the accident reporting is flawed, in that what they say isn’t always true. In a few cases, I typed the VIN of some friends cars, who were in accidents, and it comes back clean.

Carfax only gets information if an insurance company reports it. We have seen $60 damage on Carfax but there have been times where there has been $6000 in damage that was not noted by Carfax. It all depends if they get the info. It’s like buying any used car, it’s a crapshoot.

What do most people conclude when a car has had only one owner? That it was problem free enough that someone kept it a long time? Or that people only sell problem cars? This one owner feature is seen as quite valuable by many people

I would think, in normal cases, a one owner car means that it was driven by them, or their family.
If the rental car company is the one owner, then it was driven by at least 100 if not more drivers, and from what I have seen in the past, most people who rent the cars don’t really care if they redline them or whatever, since they don’t have to deal with it after they turn it back in. In other words, they treat the rental car like crap, and they wouldn’t treat their own car that way.

The complaint about the one owner rentals is really irrelevant IMO. The computer generates a report and automatically says it is a one owner car. Now when you read the report, it always states that it was a rental, lease, corporate lease or private. So that to me is helpful. Some buyers shy away from rentals, some don’t. If I wanted a minivan and found out it was a rental I wouldn’t be that worried. Not that many teeenagers rent one of those for fun. On the other hand if it was a 'stang, then I would run.

The accident report is worth only what it reports. I mean if it says major accident then you know the car has had one, if it says no accidents, then you will have to do your own home work and check the car out.

Carfax is what it is. It doesn’t catch everything, but it doesn’t claim to catch everything.

Whether or not a car was ever a rental is not important to me. Many rentals are maintained better than individually owned vehicles. When you buy a used car of any type, you take your chances. That is why it is so important to get a used car checked out by your mechanic before you buy it. You can’t trust anything that comes out of the salesperson’s mouth.

There is no substitute for a thorough mechanical inspection. Nothing, not even a Carfax report, is an adequate substitute. I don’t care if the used car has been certified by God to be in perfect condition, get it checked out anyway before you sign on the dotted line.

Who is behind Carfax? How do the make money? are valid questions.

The data they supply is useful and valid, but incomplete. Carfax seems to capture titling, re-registration, and state inspections at a high level. It is the most accurate info from Carfax.

Accident damage depends on the body shop that did the work and if an insurance claim was involved. Therefore not all body shop repairs are captured and you can’t be sure there is no repaired body damage. No damage reported does not rule out all body damage. The data on a major accident is good and reliable since most major accidents are repaired via insurance claims. Not so for minor damage.

Mechanical service data is unreliable, it depends on the shop doing the work. One Volvo dealer entered everything in their computer and Carfax captured the data. Every 5,000 service was noted including what parts were replaced, front brake pads, etc. The car had 162K miles and the report was very complete and very long. In a Toyota I have there are Carfax notes that show the vehicle was serviced but give only date and mileage. This info came from Toyota dealer service. That left “holes” in the maintenance records where either the car was not serviced at all or was done by an independent garage of chain that didn’t get captured by Carfax. I ran a Carfax record on a Honda I bought new and it had plenty of holes in the data. Data on mechanical repairs and maintenance is the least complete.

I find the info from Carfax as useful in getting info on a “unknown” vehicle, such as a used car. But dealer “hype” it too much. The one owner doesn’t tell you if it was a good owner that cared for the car or a putz.

I think that the problem is not Carfax itself, but rather, the tendency of people to give total credence to one source of information. I am, by nature, a skeptic, and I try to not rely on just one source of information unless there is strong evidence that the particular source is unimpeachable.

Based on many posts on this board, I have come to conclude that Carfax omits vital information almost as often as it includes vital information. As a result, I would not pay for a Carfax report, and if a seller of a used car provided me with a Carfax report without charge, I would use it as a secondary source of information.

My primary sources of information on that car would be its maintenance records and an inspection by a mechanic of my own choosing. Carfax is unlikely to tell me that a car was driven 12,000 miles between oil changes, and it is also possible that Carfax might not note that the car had been in a collision. However, those hard copies of the car’s maintenance will tell me most of what I need to know about how it was maintained, and my mechanic would likely be able to spot collision damage, as well as mechanical problems that are present.

You can’t go by anything that a seller says - you need to see the report yourself, and - as noted above - rental or fleet vehicles are clearly indicated. It is also true that these services don’t catch everything - but they can sometimes catch enough.

I recommend your own 30day (or so) subscription to one of these services. Run your own VIN’s and get the reports yourself. I have found Autocheck to be much better than Carfax - and it is less expensive.

In a recent round of used car shopping, Autocheck allowed me to figure out that one vehicle I looked at had changed hands 3 times w/in the last year. I ran. I found another great deal on a car I wanted - only noticeable problem was a pretty bad dent in one door - Autocheck record said it was reported at auction with frame damage.

On the car I eventually bought (from a private seller) I was able to learn what I needed to know. It was a one owner vehicle, never reported as lease or fleet, owned by the same family since new with no reported accidents or other major events.

These things are not insurance and will not tell you that any car is “safe” to buy or in good condition. They are a tool - you just have to figure out what they are and use them as such.

And have a mechanic you trust look over anything you might want to buy.

Great magazine for “skeptics” it is called Skeptic. They take on all sides of a diverse range of claims. One thing I notice about their articles is excellent source citation. Every position is backed up with a direction as to where the info came from. They recently had a article on how surveys should be done and how failure to follow the “rules” in survey taking (either intentionaly or accidently)ruin the survey.

I am using them in a paper I am writing. My topic is how do people rate information that comes from one of three sources, scientists, clergy, friends and family. It does closely follow a Skeptic article but I will change things enough to make the work mine, no plagarisim going on here.

It sounds like an interesting paper. I would like to see it when you are done if you would like to share.

All good advice. Thanks guys.
Just need to find a good mechanic, since before, she always took it to the dealers for car work.

There is no national mandatory reporting system of any kind. State reporting requirements vary wildly. Titles can and are even “washed” of any evidence of having been “totalled” by simply retitling them in a state with no reporting requirements. It’s done all the time. Therefore, Carfax is simply a compilation of information voluntarily reported to it. That activity is spotty at best, totally missing in most cases.

In short, while getting something on a Carfax report may be added info, getting a “clean” carfax report does not have any real meaning.

IMHO Carfax misrepresents itself. It gives the impression that it provides a conplete history on a used car, implying that it’s an accurate representation taking the data from some mandatory reporting system. It is not.

I just demanded a refund on a CARFAX report that indicated 5 points of totally erronious information…per the original owner of the car I just bought from a close friend. Owners, car origin, repairs, all wrong or non-existant.
They fought it, but I won.

Carfax tells me which cars NOT to check out – reported accidents, repossessions, water damage, rental, etc. If a car has black marks on Carfax, I move on.

If a car has a “clean” carfax it does not mean it’s trouble free – I always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted independent mechanic who specializes in the brand I am considering.

Carfax is just the first of many steps when buying a car.