Why is Carfax unreliable for determining if a car has been damaged?

Why is Carfax unreliable for determining if a car has been damaged?
By John A. Huguley - © 2019

What is Carfax and what is it’s intended purpose?

"Carfax, Inc. is a commercial web-based service that supplies vehicle history reports to individuals and businesses on used cars and light trucks for the American and Canadian consumers."

Now that we know the intentions of Carfax, where do they get the vehicle history reports that they supply? 

Carfax relies on three main sources for vehicle history. Among other miscellaneous sources, most of the information comes from U.S. motor vehicle agencies, automotive repair shops, and law enforcement agencies. Because of this, only a small percentage of vehicle accidents are reported. Therefore, when you receive a Carfax vehicle history report it is likely missing the most important information that you would want to know.

When I researched Carfax’s website, I found the following 3 Statements:

1.    “CARFAX does not have the complete history of every vehicle.
A CARFAX Vehicle History Report is based only on information supplied to CARFAX. Other information about the vehicle, including problems, may not have been reported to CARFAX. Use a Vehicle History Report as one important tool, along with a vehicle inspection and test drive, to make a better decision about a used car.”

2.    “...we do not have all accidents as many have never been reported, or may only have been reported to a source to which CARFAX does not have access. We recommend that any car be inspected by a qualified mechanic prior to purchase to make sure the vehicle is functioning properly and check for signs of unreported damage.”

3.    “If you know a vehicle was involved in an accident and it is not on the CARFAX Vehicle History Report, please take a minute to let us know about it by emailing us through the “Email CARFAX” tab above.”

Conclusion; If a car is in a fender bender and is taken to a repair shop without involving law enforcement, it will likely never get reported to Carfax. If a shop doesn’t proactively contact Carfax, the information will not be in the Carfax system. 

Vehicles may have had electric windows replaced, airbags repacked, front end repair, underside damage, or doors and other body parts refurbished. None of which would ever be reported to Carfax, and all of which often cause problems in the future. Another thing to consider, if a vehicle had major engine repair, transmission issues or electrical problems, a Carfax report will not have this information either. 

Therefore it is highly important that you do your own research and have an experienced person look the vehicle over. This is especially important if you plan on purchasing a used vehicle from a dealership. A dealership is not likely to know or disclose anything negative about a vehicle. If you're planning on purchasing a used car try to buy one directly from a current owner. 

Here are a few tips that can help you spot prior damage and make an informed decision.
  1. Try to only buy original-owner vehicles. This way you can get the full history.
  2. When looking at a vehicle, take a full walk around it. Look for gaps around doors that don't look uniform. Look for paint-shade or paint-texture differences. These are signs of body repair.
  3. Front end damage is common. Look for hoods that don't close tightly on all sides. Look for headlights that have uneven gaps around them. Look for tires that are not worn evenly. These are all signs that the front end has been rebuilt.
  4. Roll up and down each window a few times while the doors are closed. Watch and listen for drag or binding.
  5. Ask the current owner in person, "Has the vehicle had ANY repairs done to it at all?" Most people will reveal any prior damages when asked. In some cases, people will simply forget until asked.
Prior vehicle damage is fairly easy to spot once you know what you're looking for. Take the extra time and do the research in the beginning, you will save headaches and money down the line.

If you have any followup questions to this article feel free to reach out to me and ask. I am more than happy to help!

© 2019 - John A. Huguley