To check Carfax or not?

Is it really worth $45. to buy a car report before buying? How extensive and accurate are these reports?

Accurate? Not very. If a previous owner does not report damage to his insurance company, Carfax will have no record of it.

The Carfax report will be of use if it turns up something. No way to predict.

I use it as a first check. If something bad shows up, I move on to a different car. If nothing bad shows up, and I like the car, I have it inspected by a mechanic.

The problem with Carfax is that it may not be complete, with missing information on accidents, etc. So if something bad shows up, you know it’s a problem, but if nothing bad shows up, you can’t be sure.

thank you SteveF and texases for your comments.

You should be able to rely that what is reported on the Carfax is probably true.

HOWEVER…What you can’t rely on is what ISN’T reported to Carfax. If it’s NOT reported to carfax then they can’t report it.

I would never pay $45 to see one report, but if I was going to be car shopping for private sales, I might invest in a $45 subscription so I could check out all the cars I look at.

If I was shopping at a car dealership, I would ask to see the Carfax report. They usually subscribe, so viewing the report doesn’t cost you anything.

I doubt I will get a carfax on my next car. Last time I did, it didn’t show a wreck, luckily, the wreck damage was caught by a mechanic before I purchased the car. It was major enough to be a necessary repair, likely the door was replaced, etc., but fixed well enough that it merely gave me good leverage for bargaining on the price.

What do you want to buy? If the dealer can’t provide the report?? “buyer beware”.

“As is” If you want something with a guarantee believe me that the seller knows all about the car…


Shhhhh! You can use your inside voice in here and still get your point across.

I would use a Carfax report to rule out buying cars, but not to make me feel better about a purchase. Regardless, I would not pay $45 for a report. I think I spent ~$15 the only time I paid for a report.

Pretty much agree but I’d want to know the ownership history of a used car and what states it had been registered in. New Jersey and Florida are red flags plus cars coming from the coast that flooded recently. Dealers will provide it free but last time I had to buy it was $25 for 30 days use, some years ago.

I think in the past you could buy one month unlimited access for $30 which was a good deal for the month you wanted to go shopping. Last time I checked it was either individual reports or pack of 5 only. I usually want to check the report before driving to check the car out and with the current pricing it gets expensive.

Why would you pay for information where those responsible for providing it frequently have the control to withhold it if it’s in their interest?

A Vehicle History Report is Not a Pre-purchase Inspection!

For many years, Carfax stated that their history reports were “…your best protection against buying a used car with costly, hidden problems.” However, there are many past and present Carfax customers that have been fooled into believing the information in a Carfax report is complete and accurate. Many of these customers have filed lawsuits including a class action lawsuit against Carfax.

The only reliable information contained in a Carfax report is the vehicle’s DMV record. However, the DMV’s will report negative comments (rebuilt, salvage, true miles unknown, thief recovery, etc…) ONLY if the problems were reported to the DMV.

A Carfax report will have negative title information ONLY if the negative information was actually reported to the DMV and ONLY if the DMV changed the vehicle’s title.

Seven Problems with a Carfax Report (or any Vehicle History Report):

First, if the vehicle has been rebuilt (or salvaged) Carfax can only report this if the States’ DMV changed the vehicle’s title to “salvage, rebuilt, reconstructed, etc…” However, there are some states that do not indicate remarks on their titles such as “savage, rebuilt, true miles unknown, thief recovery, etc…” Also, if the insurance company does not notify the state that they have totaled a vehicle, the DMV will not change the title to ‘salvage, rebuilt, etc…” For example, a few years ago, State Farm was sued for not reporting over 30,000 totaled vehicles to the States’ DMV. Since the titles were never changed to salvage, Carfax shows these vehicles to have “clean” titles. These totaled vehicles were sold to salvage yards, patched together, and re-sold to the public with the original titles and a “clean” Carfax report. It is not uncommon for a professional pre-purchase inspection to find accident and frame damage on a vehicle when the Carfax report shows “no reported Structural / Frame Damage" or “Accident / Damage”.

Second, there is no database for body & frame shops to report accident damage and repairs, and not all insurance companies disclose or share their accident information. Carfax readily admits that there are thousands of accidents, each day, which will never show up on a Carfax report. Even if Carfax reports an accident, it cannot tell you the extent of the accident damage, or the quality of any repairs. Only a professional inspection by a Frame Specialist can give you that information.

Third, used car dealers know the limitations of a Carfax report. Some dealers knowingly buy vehicles with frame and accident damaged which have a “clean” Carfax report. They sell these damaged vehicles to unsuspecting buyers showing them the “clean” Carfax before they purchase. Bad vehicles are purchased every day because the seller/salesperson talked the buyer out of a professional inspection by showing a “clean” report. A vehicle history report cannot tell the buyer the current condition of the vehicle.

Forth, Carfax does not have any type of reporting mechanism with the tens of thousands independent repair facilities across the United States. Most of the Carfax reports have little or no repair information compared to the millions of automotive repairs performed each day. Even if Carfax reports a repair, it cannot tell you if the problem was fixed correctly or if there are additional mechanical/electrical problems with the vehicle.

Fifth, some States require an annual safety and/or emission testing. A safety or emission test is very limited in its testing and like a repair history, it cannot tell the buyer the current actual condition of all the vehicle’s components and systems.

Sixth, Carfax is a “History” report. There is a time lag between when a vehicle’s title was changed to reflect a “negative” comment and when Carfax actually reports the title’s new information. This time lag can allow a damaged vehicle to be re-sold before Carfax can report the negative information about the vehicle.

Seventh, a used car buyer has to question the cost effectiveness of a vehicle history report vs. the amount of creditable information . A Carfax report sells for $34-$45 vs. a professional pre-purchase inspection for around $150. Pay the $34-$45, and you still don’t know the current condition of any mechanical or electrical system, you still don’t know for sure if the vehicle was in accident(s) or the quality of any previous accident damage, and you still don’t know if the vehicle was abused or well maintained. Only a physical pre-purchase inspection by an ASE Master Technician & Frame Specialist can determine the true condition before you buy.

The perception for a used car buyers is that Carfax offers comprehensive historical information about used vehicles, but the reality is, the information contained in a Carfax report is incomplete, limited, misleading, may not be current, and in some cases totally inaccurate. This difference between the used car buyers’ perception, and reality, will cause them to make bad decisions based upon incomplete information provided by a Carfax report.

Search the web for complaints against Carfax. Many consumers have filed complaints and lawsuits that Carfax deceives their customers by concealing the limits of the information it collects. When confronted by irate customers, Carfax hides behind their disclaimer. (FYI, Carfax does not allow phoned in complaints).

The ONLY way to determine the TRUE condition before purchase is to have the vehicle professionally inspected by an ASE Certified Master Technician and Frame Specialist. Visit for helpful used car buying tips and information on how to select an Automotive Technician to perform a pre-purchase inspection, and what type of information you should receive from a pre-purchase inspection.

The #1 reason bad cars are purchased is the buyers’ inability to determine the true condition of the vehicle before purchase. A history report cannot be used to determine the true condition of the vehicle.

Don’t let a salesperson or seller takl you out of getting a pre-purchase inspection by showing a “Clean” carfax report.

I agree with pretty much everything you said…except the ASE certified technician. The mechanic I use when I don’t want to do work…or the job is too big…he’s NOT an ASE certified tech…but he’ll run rings around ANY ASE tech in this area. In fact many mechanics will send him work they can’t do because of his knowledge and experience.