Chances are that you have seen a CarFax.com commercial before or heard about the company in some other way. Chances are also good that you have a solid understanding of what CarFax is all about.
Simply put, CarFax is a company that provides detailed car history reports by running a detailed check on the car’s VIN #. It is an essential step to buying a used car and ensuring that it will be a safe and reliable purchase. In fact, many used car dealerships preorder the CarFax history reports to show customers interested in purchasing vehicles from them.
The company known as CarFax was founded all the way back in 1984 in Columbia, Missouri. It was created by the computer professional Ewin Barnett III and Robert Daniel Clark. Though the company now has its headquarters in Centreville, Virginia, a data center operation is still located in Columbia.
It is interesting to note that Barnett originally created CarFax as a way to combat odometer fraud, a method of making it seem like a used car has fewer miles on it than it really does. He developed a database of records on cars in the state of Missouri. These were distributed by fax machine (thus the CarFax company name).
By the end of 1993, CarFax had grown not just to cover only cars licensed in Missouri but from each of the fifty states. The growing success of the website led to the creation of its website in 1996. CarFax.com was proven to be very popular and successful.
Top Features of CarFax
CarFax offers several products and services to its customers. These come with a number of useful features. These include:
- Free Products – CarFax offers four free products and services to its customers. These are their Lemon Check, Record Check, Recall Check, and Problem Car. The services are helpful in many ways as they can point to problems in used vehicles. At the same time, however, they do not contain all of the information provided in the standard CarFax Vehicle History Report. It is almost always a good idea to request the full history report when purchasing a used vehicle.
- Car Safety and Reliability Ratings – Another free service that CarFax.com offers is their Car Safety and Reliability Ratings. These provide the user access to reviews from sources including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IntelliChoice, and J.D. Power and Associates.
- Vehicle History Reports – The full Vehicle History Reports offered by CarFax are the company’s most popular and widely reviewed service. They were once an essential item when it came to selling used cars. In fact, they are the company’s core product. There are two main ways to use a CarFax Vehicle History Report. You can either purchase a single report on a vehicle you are interested in purchasing. Or you can purchase an account that allows you to analyze a number of different vehicles. The second option is best for those planning on looking at several used vehicles before making a final selection. Some auto dealers even offer free CarFax reports to their customers. If you are shopping at a used car dealership, it is important to see if they offer this service.
The services provided by CarFax are used by millions of people each and every year. Their Vehicle History Reports are available for every used car (and most light truck models) that were built after the year 1981. This makes their reports incredibly useful for consumers, no matter the style of used car they are hoping to purchase.
CarFax runs its reports by utilizing the 17-character VIN (vehicle identification number) that every car in the United States is required to have. The unique number is run through a database containing more than ten billion records until a match is found.
Some of the information that your CarFax Vehicle History Report might include are:
- Title information
- Flood damage history
- Accurate odometer readings
- Lemon history
- Total loss accident history
- Accident indicators (like airbag deployment)
- Service records
- State emissions inspection results
- Vehicle use (taxi, rental, lease, etc.)
- Number of owners
CarFax.com scours more than 34,000 data sources in the United States and Canada to find records for a used car’s history. Fire and police departments, auto auctions, fleet management and rental agencies, collision repair facilities, and more are looked into.
The final feature of CarFax that is worth mentioning is their CarFax Buyback Guarantee. In my opinion, this is one of the best features of their service. Basically, their guarantee reduces the risk of buying a used car by buying the vehicle back from you at full purchase price if their report fails to include a DMV-issued branded title (something along the lines of salvage, fire or flood damage, and odometer problems).
Criticism of CarFax.com
Though there isn’t much straight up criticism against CarFax (at least in the last few years), there is such criticism in which CarFax is compared negatively against other companies offering history reports on cars.
One of CarFax’s biggest competitors is AutoCheck. I have used both services thoroughly in the past and few like I know a few things about both of them. Though they offer nearly the same thing, I have always found CarFax to be superior.
CarFax is especially good at verifying mileage. It is also the better bet between the two at checking whether or not the car has been used as part of a fleet company or by a dealership. In my opinion, both companies are very sloe to each other at performing comprehensive checks on government databases.
Both companies do an excellent job at reporting accident histories. And the technology for each has only grown in the past few years. You can rest assured that you are getting the best accident history report around when you use CarFax.com.
A Quick Disclaimer
Though CarFax is a very good way to check the history of a used car, it should not be relied upon alone. You should also have the vehicle independently inspected if you truly want to ensure that it is good to go.
CarFax, nor any similar company, can tell you everything about a car. They can’t tell you how it was driven, what the quality of repairs made to it were, or if there is anything that needs to be replaced soon in the future.
The best way to make sure you get the best bang for your buck is by having an established independent garage give it a once over. This ensures that you are making the best investment in a used car possible. CarFax even encourages their users to have their vehicle inspected by a professional auto repair facility before buying it.
Excellent Customer Service
CarFax’s service is prompt, courteous, and professional. You will receive your Vehicle History Report shortly after purchasing it and there is an extremely small chance that it will be inaccurate.
Though CarFax is not a service that you will regularly need to contact for customer support, they do have a support line that is easy to reach. They have several contact forms on their website that you can fill out to describe your problem. You will receive a detailed reply in a few short days.
Final Thoughts on CarFax.com
I would recommend that you never buy a used car without getting a CarFax Vehicle History Report on it. At the same time, however, I encourage you to also have the car inspected by a certified and trustworthy mechanic.
Though CarFax is a very reputable company and great at what they do, it takes actual experienced eyes on your car to truly give it a thorough evaluation.