Buying a used vehicle can be a bit of a gamble, especially if you’re getting it from a private seller. Since cars are complex pieces of machinery, it’s natural that many things could go wrong. This is why a used car buyer needs to gather as much information as possible regarding the history of the vehicle they’re about to purchase. Services such as CARFAX can help you do that, but you may not be getting the whole picture.
What Is CARFAX?
CARFAX is a company that gathers vehicle information from multiple sources and uses it to provide companies and private individuals with vehicle history reports. Some of the sources CARFAX uses to get relevant information are insurance companies, vehicle repair and service shops, car rental businesses, and automotive auctions. The company also collaborates with over 131,000 state vehicle bureaus to get information on various incidents that involve vehicles. After gathering all this data, CARFAX combines it to compile a vehicle database and provide detailed reports to its customers.
The primary purpose of a CARFAX report is to help prevent a prospective car buyer from purchasing a vehicle with unknown faults. Using separate independent data sources can make it more likely that various relevant events that occurred throughout the respective car’s history would show up in the report. This variety of sources also makes it more likely that an accident would be mentioned in a CARFAX report despite it not being reported to the authorities after it occurred.
What Does a CARFAX Report Include?
There are four main categories listed on a CARFAX vehicle history. Read on to find out what you can learn from the report.
The Vehicle’s Ownership History
This section mentions the respective vehicle’s previous owners. Not having many previous owners is something that car buyers generally seek in a used car, as each of them may have a different driving style and may have made modifications to the respective vehicle. One-owner vehicles are usually the most sought-after. Besides listing the people or companies that used to own the respective vehicle, this first part of the CARFAX report also mentions other related info, such as the following:
- The years in which the vehicle was purchased.
- The length of time that the vehicle belonged to each previous owner.
- Each location where the vehicle was previously registered.
- The last recorded odometer reading.
The Vehicle’s Title History
A car title is a document that includes information about the vehicle and its owner. It can also include specific makings to alert potential future owners of various issues the respective vehicle may have. Some examples of car title markings are as follows:
- Salvage and junk: These indicate a vehicle in very poor condition, with potential repair costs that exceed 75% of its estimated pre-damage value. Most vehicles with these markings can’t be re-registered in the state they were registered in before becoming unusable.
- Rebuilt: Sometimes, people may take a car with a salvage or junk title and rebuild it. This is the marking they get after a successful rebuild.
- Lemon: Although the exact definition may vary from one state to another, this marking usually indicates a vehicle with severe issues that make it unsafe to drive. These may refer to significant engine, braking system, body, or transmission damage.
- Fire and flood: These two markings indicate that the vehicle was severely damaged by fire or by water, respectively.
- Not actual mileage: This mark shows that the car’s seller has no proof that the mileage is accurate. Similarly, a “Mileage mechanical limit exceeded” mark is used for cars with odometers that can’t go past 99,999 miles.
This section of the report shows various issues that have been reported to the previous owner’s insurance companies. Some common issues include a deployed air bag, any significant structural damage, any accident, a manufacturer recall, and even a declaration of total loss.
This final section is complementary to the previous one. It goes into further detail regarding any major event in the vehicle’s past, including sales, service visits, and inspections. Each used car buyer should study this section as thoroughly as possible, as it can provide relevant insight into the vehicle’s history and current situation.
Do Body Shops Report To CARFAX?
The quick answer is yes. Most body shop visits are reported to CARFAX, one way or another. Reporting directly to CARFAX is optional for auto repair shops, so some do it while others don’t. However, there are also situations in which CARFAX can include a body shop visit in a car’s report despite the body shop not reporting it directly. Some common ones are as follows:
- When using the vehicle identification number to order car parts.
- When asking for multiple repair price quotes online, as some websites and apps report directly to CARFAX.
- When visiting the car dealership.
- When opening an auto insurance claim.
Can Some Events Be Missing From a Vehicle’s CARFAX History Report?
Despite CARFAX gathering vehicle info from many relevant sources, there can be situations in which some events are missing from a car’s report. Some common instances in which this happens are as follows:
- Owners performing their own maintenance operations: If the CARFAX report shows a considerable gap between routine operations such as oil changes, a possible explanation may be that the previous owners did these operations by themselves.
- Accidents being unreported: Similarly, some owners may decide to repair minor accidents by themselves, meaning that they won’t show up in the CARFAX report.
- Previous inspections not being thorough enough: Although CARFAX lists the vehicle’s service history, there’s no way of knowing whether the previous inspections were done by the book or not. Calling the repair shop may be a way to find out.
Check Out Huffines Kia McKinney’s Inventory of CARFAX Used Cars
Here at Huffines Kia McKinney, we use CARFAX to certify that some of the used vehicles we have on sale only had one previous owner before arriving on our lot. This can help you choose a used vehicle in great condition that’ll serve you well for many years to come. Check out our CARFAX used cars on our website or visit us here in McKinney, Texas, to see them for yourself.