The Benefits of Using Carfax when buying your next car

Published: 24th January 2008
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If you are in the market to buy a used car, using Carfax as a research tool is worth the investment.

Carfax' history dates back to 1986 when it worked closely with the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, providing vehicle history reports to the dealer market. By the end of 1993, Carfax obtained title information from nearly all fifty states. When the largest automobile database, the company offered all consumers the same instant access to vehicle history reports that auto dealers, banks and other businesses were already subscribed to.

So what can Carfax provide you?

1. When the car was built

2. When and where the car was first registered

3. When the first annual inspection was done

4. When the second annual inspection was done

5. When the car was registered in a new state

6. When the car was offered for sale

7. Accidents - Not all accidents are reported and not all reported accidents are included, but a substantial number are listed

8. Advisories - Carfax aggregates enough data on most vehicles to infer certain events. When the inference is sufficiently strong Carfax will provide an advisory explaining the inference.

9. Airbag Deployment

10. Auto Auction - Many vehicles are sold at auction and Carfax reports on these sales

11. Certified Pre-Owned Status - Many manufacturers report the cars they certify to Carfax

12. Dates of activity - Most events shown on the report include a date of the event

13. Emission Test Results

14. Frame Damage - In addition to reporting accidents, frequently frame damage is reported

15. Lease / Lien events

16. Location - Most records include some indication of the city and state of origin for the event

17. Maintenance and Service Events - Like accidents, not all are reported, but a significant number are

18. Non-Branded Lemon - The manufacturer bought back the vehicle as a courtesy instead of due to legal requirement

19. Odometer Readings - These may include readings or title designations that the readings are not reliable

20. Odometer Rollbacks - Some rollbacks are certified while other irregular readings are highlighted with suggestion for careful review

21. Open Recalls - Many manufacturers report their open recalls to Carfax

22. Ownership Transfers

23. Repairs - Like accidents, not all are reported, but a significant number are, particularly when paid by an extended warranty company

24. Stolen Vehicles

25. Title Brands - Official state designations found on the title such as Salvage, Flood, Lemon, and Junk

26. Title Numbers

27. Titling Activity - transfers, renewals, etc.

28. Vehicle Use - taxi, fleet, commercial, personal, rental car and other uses are reported

Some information is not available on a report. Personal information such as names, telephone numbers and addresses of owners is neither collected nor reported.

The Downside to Carfax, although small is:

1. Accuracy -While most of the time the Carfax reports are accurate, there can be some instances where Carfax is not accurate. If you look at some of the consumer websites online (Consumer Reports, Consumer Affairs), there are reports that some of the information Carfax provided was incorrect and ended up costing the buyer thousands of dollars.

2. Seller's problems- Picture you're selling your car and you find out that Carfax is listing incorrect information - what do you do? Well according to some of the consumer websites, not much. One site listed one story indicating the seller sent all his car records to Carfax in order for them to update their information. However, Carfax refused. Therefore, it's better to check your car's information sooner rather than later to be sure it will not hurt you in the future when you sell your own car.

While you never can be 100% sure about the accuracy of the Carfax information, it well may be worth $30 to find out what is listed. More information is always better when you are buying a car.

Greg Chapman of Greg Chapman Motors is a knowledgable and leading provider of used cars, trucks, and SUV's. Since 1959, Chapman motors has supplied reliable used cars in Austin and the surrounding area. For more information please visit

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