How well do you think that initial rendezvous would go if all first dates had a full report of your fraudulent dating history? Not well. Maybe you should keep this analogy in mind when you set out to buy a car.
A CARFAX report has become the final decision maker for car buyer who are typically the second biggest purchase in a lifetime. Showroom sales reps wave the CARFAX report under your nose when you hone in on a used car. A CARFAX report is supposed to give consumers the security that they are buying a well-loved car. This begs the questions: Is the CARFAX report all that truthful? More importantly, does any of it matter?
This begs the questions: Is the CARFAX report all that truthful? More importantly, does any of it matter?
The CARFAX report, a detailed maintenance/accident history of that particular vehicle, will show reported maintenance (oil changes, tire rotation, timing belt, etc) and accidents that happened over the life of the car. CARFAX pulls extensive data from thousands of sources and puts it into one comprehensive report.
This benefits consumers because now they have access to information that, back in the day, was typically kept hidden. It also benefits the dealership because when you go to trade in your car, the dealership knows the car’s history.
Recently, I was home over the holidays talking to my parents about car buying. My Mom is in the market for a new car. She will need to trade in her 2011 BMW 328xi. When you trade in your car, the dealership never offers full value. The dealership has to make money off the resale (they typically offer you $4-5k less than its value). The dealership will take even more off the offer if the car has been in an accident. And the only way the dealership knows this is with the CARFAX report.
It’s of no benefit to report an accident claim to insurance in a minor fender bender (i.e., someone backs into you at a shopping center). Bring this accident up to your insurance company and two things happen. First, your insurance goes up; and second, your insurance company reports this claim to CARFAX. The dealership can site minor accidents in the CARFAX report as devaluing the car.
So the CARFAX might not be accurate. You could be buying a car that has been in an accident but not reported as a claim to the insurance company. A minor fender bender has no major effect on the performance of the car, so don’t worry too much.
Should you take the CARFAX so seriously? I say, “No”. When buying a car it is important to know the car’s history. It is MORE important to have a detailed vehicle history of maintenance and care. And the CARFAX shouldn’t substitute for the next most important thing; have the car inspected by your local mechanic.
And the CARFAX shouldn’t substitute for the next most important thing; have the car inspected by your local mechanic.
In my family we have gone through 20 plus cars (we love cars). Some of which have been totaled in accidents and brought back to streetable condition. Then driven for thousands of more miles. You would have never known the car was in a major collision. But if you saw the history on CARFAX it becomes a car that you do not want to own.
A great tip for an owner is to take extensive pictures of the damage before and after the repair. Later on, if you do want to sell your car you have evidence of the severity of the damage.
The CARFAX report gives consumers the false security that they are in control of their purchase. In reality accidents can be easily kept from insurance companies. CARFAX reports can be unreliable, even untruthful.
The next time you are in the market for a used car and the CARFAX isn’t perfect, don’t take it so seriously. Get to know the car, take it to a mechanic and make sure it has a great maintenance history. Don’t let CARFAX be your final decision maker.
I’m just grateful that the folks in Silicon Valley haven’t invented the “HUMANFAX,” yet.
This is true. My BRZ got rear ended in August 2014. I’ve written all about it on the internet, so it’s no secret to anyone. But my Carfax is still clean. The accident never showed up there, despite the police report and the car being almost totaled.