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"Show me the carfax" Yeah, Right

I don’t know about you, but those stupid carfax commercials with the cocky kid and the annoying woman telling the salesman “just show me the carfax” really gets on my nerves. Reason being is one of our local investigative reporters did a story on a used car dealer who was selling used auction cars which had frame damage and Carfax showed “No damage” on its report. Another company called Auto check DID show the damage on its report. The investigative reporter even interviewed a rep from Carfax who cant understand why they aren’t getting the info when Auto check does. My point of this post is don’t take carfax’s word as gold or the “end all”. You can still be getting junk. You should get it checked by a professional.

Heres the links to the I-Team stories for your entertainment




Yea, carfax misses a lot. Frankly if I were buying I would not bother looking. I certainly would not pay for it.

If I did not know the history (buying from someone I know) I would have my mechanic take a look.

The last time I was used car shopping I went with AutoCheck - at the time it was just b/c their deal was more reasonable than Carfax. But while shopping I came across more than one case where I had info that someone’s Carfax did not - including one of those frame damage ones.

Either way, I didn’t trust Autocheck either - I just used it as one piece of information, not assuming that the lack of red flags meant the lack of a reason for red flags. All in all I found it useful and will stay w/ Autocheck if I need it again.

As far as I know, the only passenger car built today that has a frame is a Crown Vic and it’s siblings…

The only time Carfax and AutoCheck get collision repair information if when insurance companies total the car…Body-shops do NOT report to ANYONE that they “pulled” a beer can back into shape…At best, these services can spot wrecks that have been “reconstructed” after insurance companies total them…

I’ve had discussions with my clueless brother-in-law about this. He’s under the impression that EVERY time a car goes in for any kind of work the carfax database is automatically updated. I tried to explain to him that it’s IMPOSSIBLE…It’s up the mechanic to report the work. If they don’t report it, it never gets in their database.

You have a better chance of getting a good quality used car if before you buy it you have it inspected by a trusted mechanic…then relying on carfax to tell you it’s repair history.

I went looking for a used vehicle last fall and ran into the same thing. I found a 2005 Chevy Suburban with 60,000 miles.

I test drove it and brought it to my shop to inspect it. The first thing I noticed when I opened the hood was the hood had been repainted, there was overspray all over it.

Then I noticed that there were a number of things replaced on the engine. On the right side of the engine, a new fuel rail, fuel pressure regulator, 4 ignition coils, wire harness to the coils, air snorkel, air filter box. The replaced parts stood out like a sore thumb compared to the weathered parts on the other side of the engine.

When I inspected the suspension it had 2 new lower control arms and 2 new outer tie rods.

Car Fax had none of these repairs listed. I confronted the salesman, I made him come out and I showed him all of these things. He gave some lamea** excuse for why they weren’t on the report. Needless to say I walked away from this vehicle.

Gee, I wonder what people did before Carfax existed? {sarcasm mode off}

To me, it is basically useless and I would never base a purchasing decision soley on this type of report.

A false positive would be rare and so if something is on the report, there’s a good chance it is real.

However, a false negative is highly probable and so the fact nothing shows up on the report means just that- nothing. So you’re left with the same level of uncertainty and therefore should do all the same tried and true due diligence prior to purchase as before this “service” came into existence.

I found it incredibly useful, at the very least for basic ownership history. You certainly wouldn’t assume this is always 100% but the recording of “official” events - especially DMV reports are pretty reliable. One of the vehicles I was looking at had changed hands 3 times within the prior 18 months - I’d call that a red flag. It was easy to tell how many owners a car had, when it had most of its mileage put on it, whether it was ever registered as a taxi, etc. The car I ended up buying was reported by seller as single owner - he was right. Another guy told me he was a second owner - well…he was the 5th owner. Another was selling a vehicle that had once been assigned a salvage title. Etc.

Then the other kinds of red flags are useful. You obviously can’t be assured of anything close to complete info about a car’s history (that’s a myth that the marketing likes to imply), but to me these reports were far from useless. You just have to take them for what they are.

I consider a Carfax report (or one like it) a starting point. If there is anything I don’t like on the report, I move on to another vehicle. On the other hand, if nothing is on the report, I still investigate the quality of the vehicle.

However, when selling a used vehicle, having a printed Carfax report to show a prospective buyer can grease the wheels and improve my chances of getting my asking price. I don’t claim the report is definitive, I just present the report and let the buyer infer from it what he wants to.

CF is a sales tool more than anything else. The marketing people push the idea that a clean CF or one showing no serious problems means the vehicle being researched is a peach. It still boils down to a coin flip.

Just for hoots some years ago, I ran a CF on several of my cars. My Subaru that had been totalled and repaired by me was shown to have a clean, clear title even though it had been registered/tagged and driven by me under a Salvage Title for about 7 or 8 years.

My old SAAB 900 was shown to be “currently stolen” which was a laugh to me, the original owner, and the DMV.
No idea where CF came up with that one.

My youngest son’s old Camaro was shown to have been involved in a major wreck/insurance claim and the only problem was that someone had broken a T-Top out and stolen the stereo. The car had never been wrecked at all.

I figure that if CF is this wrong about some cars belonging to a single family then the sum total of errors must be horrendous.

Look Carfax tells you more than the dealer will. The important part is to look at the history for retitles in states that allow salvage to be converted to new title. Yes to your point always LOOK at the car you are buying. The title service does have a piece of the puzzle if you understand how to read it.

They’re useless to me because I couldn’t care less how many people have owned the car before me. I do my own inspections and treat the car as an entire unknown when looking it over. I can fix just about any problem, my concern is how much it will cost me to get the car into shape and keep it running. I may be the exception but there are a lot of enthusiasts that frequent this site that appear to have the skills and knowledge to do the same.

I found it incredibly useful

It’s useful IF AND ONLY IF everything is reported. And that’s the problem…not everything is. And not ALL DMV changes are recorded…Especially if an out of state transaction. Because of these limitations…I find it to be completely useless.

It’s useful IF AND ONLY IF everything is reported.

If I was considering a car that has been totaled, rebuilt, and then went through a flood, I think it would be useful if only one of those problems made it onto the Carfax report. One of those problems on a Carfax report would be enough of a red flag to make the report useful, even if it wasn’t all inclusive.

If I was considering a car that has been totaled, rebuilt, and then went through a flood, I think it would be useful if only one of those problems made it onto the Carfax report. One of those problems on a Carfax report would be enough of a red flag to make the report useful, even if it wasn’t all inclusive.

I agree 100%…but the operative word there is IF. Last I heard less the 20% of all repairs are ever reported. And personally I think that’s extremely high.

Carfax gives the impression that its data is taken from some sort of required accident reporting system. There is none. Any data Carfax may have is data volutarily reported to them. The data is lacking at best, misleading at worst.

Where was CF after I rebuilt my Subaru? After the accident and rebuild, I drove that car for 7+ years on an OK Salvage Title and it still had a S.T. when I sold it.
Matter of fact, the CF check was done right before the sale just because I was curious.

As to the “currently stolen” SAAB 900 I owned, that one could never be figured out.
That came as news to the original owner and when I looked out in the drive it was still parked there. :slight_smile:

Exactly my point. My brother who owns a body shop has never reported repairs to anyone. So, is carfax a government owned entity?? Is there a law stating all dmv’s must report all ownership changes on every vehicle in their system to carfax and auto check? If I decide I want to open a business just like carfax and auto check and I start going to or writing to all the DMV’s and telling them or asking them to pretty please send me every single registration they have in their computer and to let me know whenever anyone changes ownership on any vehicle so I can keep track of them on a database and sell them to anyone who pays me $10…They’re going to tell me to get lost, and laugh at me as I’m walking out their door…Same with insurance companies. “Hey Allstate, Hey State Farm, Would you please tell me every time you pay to fix someones car?? I need to know their vin #'s and what kind of damage they had so I can charge anybody $10 for that info”. I"ll hold my breath for that. There are way too many variables. How can you claim to have accurate information on anyones car and charge someone for your inaccurate information? I can run my car into a wall, take it to the shop and fix it myself and be back on the road. Am I required to call carfax, or anyone to report what I just did??