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What if a used car does not have maintenance records?

I am a college kid looking to replace my '87 Accord with one in the 98-02 Range.

So far I am considering the following:

1998 Accord EX 104,000 miles

Only paperwork available is from recent work the dealer did before the car was put up for sale. Nothing from the previous owner.

2002 Accord EX 66,000 miles

No paperwork at all. The only known fact is that this car was leased and maintained by the dealership throughout the lease.

Should I immediately run from a car if the seller can’t provide maintenance paperwork even if the test-drive/mechanic inspection go OK?

Appreciate any advice. Thanks

No, you don’t have to run. Most people keep few, if any, records of auto maintenance, and most cars purchased from dealers come with no records.

In this case an inspection by an independent mechanic is the only thing you can go by.

If the 2002 was maintained by the dealer they should have records. That doesn’t mean they will show them to you, just that they probably exist in a computer somewhere.

If no one can prove the '98 has had a timing belt replacement I would assume it needs one NOW.

Either car could be a time bomb or a pleasure. The best way of being assured is to avoid the dealer and purchase a private sale car(typically much better price) with full stack of maintenance receipts.

what about a car fax report.that should give you a start.and if you ask the dealership if you can see the maintence done at their shop i dont think thay would say no.

what about a car fax report.

IMHO car fax reports are almost useless.

A carfax report is very helpful for detecting deliberate fraud like odometer rollbacks or salvage titles that have been “cleaned” through various means, but they give no indication of how well a vehicle has been maintained.

It would be nice if cars came with service records, but usually they don’t so you have to look for other clues as to how well the car has been maintained. This is another reason IMHO to buy from a private party because if you buy a car from a dealer, even if the car has been abused in the past they’ll usually change any fluids and do any visibly necessary maintenance before they put it out on the lot. With a private party, generally a neglectful owner won’t know what maintenance to do to cover up their neglectfulness and an inspection by you or your mechanic should catch it.

greassyjack thanks for that info about carfax.i was under the impression that you got alot of maintence info from the carfax.never had to use one thanks for the info rob

What I do is assume that most maintenance was not done. Then you are up for a tranny oil change and a timing belt and a coolant change as such. I just drop $1500 ballpark from the price. Rarely I have seen even a private party to have decent records. My last two cars that I sold I had every piece of repair receipt or the part receipt (since I did most of it myself) but the buyers were not interested and thought it was trash. I made sure that they knew when the T belt was due.

Most people don’t keep full maintenance records; even on cars that were well maintained. That would be a non-issue IMHO.

As an example of how worthless CarFax reports are consider a couple of my old cars (now gone).
One was on a “Salvage Title” for about 8 years - with CF showing a clear and clean title for the entire 8 years.
Another of my cars was shown by CF to be “currently stolen”. Since the car’s history was verifiable and it was parked in my driveway at the time, that report was also totally worthless.

CF was also incorrect about one of my son’s cars. The car had been broken into and the stereo stolen. CF reported it as a “total wreck”. (Hardly, since the only damage was a T-top and the plastic console around the radio.)

CF can help on a few things but should not taken as Gospel that a clean CF report means a great car. CF is more of a sales tool for car dealers than anything else IMHO.