As a used car buyer, it is always best to know as much about it as you can. Vehicles can have hidden issues and problems that you could end up getting stuck dealing with down the line. Finding out the complete history of a used car is the best way to predict how it will perform in the future. That’s why a vehicle history report is such an important aspect of any used car purchase.
There are two major companies that create and distribute vehicle history reports: AutoCheck and Carfax. Understanding the difference between these two reports and what each of them can tell you about a used car can help you choose the one that will be most beneficial to you. In turn, this can help you decide whether or not you should buy a car you have had your eye on.
Carfax Vs. AutoCheck
Carfax is one of the most popular vehicle history report companies in the country. They are owned by an analytics company called IHS Markit and specialize in incredibly detailed reports. They have been in business since the 1980s and got their name from the fact that they used to fax reports to their clients.
Many used car dealerships will offer free Carfax reports to their potential buyers. However, not all of them will so it is important that you know what is included in a Carfax report so you can be sure that you’re getting all the information you need.
How it Works
Carfax gathers their data from over 100,000 sources for their reports. These sources include agencies like law enforcement, dealerships, and even automotive body shops. Because of this kind of comprehensive reporting, you can be sure that your report has every available piece of information on a used car.
Carfax also gathers data from Canada, which other vehicle history reporting agencies in the U.S. may not do. Their records include over 1.75 billion pieces of information and many of them are from less common data sources that are important to include if you want the full picture. Some of these less common sources include fleet records and auction houses which can have a major effect on whether you want to purchase a vehicle or not.
Carfax reports include every detail of a vehicle’s transfers of ownership. This will give you insight into how many times the car has changed hands and what that could mean for the condition. It will also include Truth in Mileage Act-certified odometer readings. These will help protect you from being a victim of an odometer rollback.
One of the most interesting things that come in a Carfax report is the vehicle’s maintenance records. This is perhaps one of the most important records you can get your hands on as a prospective buyer of a used car. A lack of proper maintenance will have long-term consequences on a vehicle and you should always know what its maintenance history and service records have been like.
As of 2021, one Carfax report costs $39.99. If you want three of them, it will be $59.99 and six of them cost $99.99. This makes Carfax more expensive than AutoCheck and means it may not be the best option if you are trying to run reports on many vehicles that you are thinking about buying.
One of the biggest advantages of using Carfax for your car buying needs is that it is so comprehensive. In fact, they are confident enough in their completeness that if you buy a car based on a Carfax report and it has registration or title issues that weren’t reported, their Buyback Guarantee might cover the cost of the vehicle.
The other benefit of using Carfax is that it has very specific information on the reports. You can draw a complete picture from what is included and don’t have to do any guesswork. If you are knowledgeable about cars in the first place, this could be the best option for you.
A downside of using Carfax is that it is more expensive than AutoCheck. The higher price tag means that it might be out of your price range if you want to run checks on multiple vehicles.
Carfax’s detail may also be a downside if you don’t quite know what you are looking for. If all you are concerned about is a vehicle’s accident history, you might not need all of the detailed information that comes with a Carfax report.
AutoCheck is one of the leading providers of vehicle history reports. They are owned by Experian and they are generally the go-to company for reports from CarMax, eBay Motors, Edmunds.com, NADAguides.com, and Kelley Blue Book. If you are purchasing a car online, chances are it will come with an AutoCheck report.
AutoCheck has been in business since 1996 and in that time they have had good relationships with used car dealers and are generally their go-to. This is partially due to the fact that AutoCheck has access to auction data so they can offer a complete sale history of any used automobile.
How it Works
AutoCheck vehicle history reports use a numerical score similar to a credit score that is between 70 and 90 to tell you about a vehicle’s history. This can be a bit confusing for some and it also limits how specific that score can be. Some people have reported that a difference of just six points meant that at one time a vehicle had been issued a salvage title.
They allow their subscribers to run up to 300 reports using VIN numbers. This is a great feature if you are looking at a wide variety of cars and want to run a report on each one. Being able to run a VIN check on that many vehicles is another reason they are so commonly used by dealerships and auction houses.
They gather data from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. An AutoCheck report will include any kind of reported frame or structural damage and odometer damage. It will also include things like whether the manufacturer has issued any open recalls or buybacks as well as if it has been part of an insurance total loss.
AutoCheck reports include information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is useful because it will let you know if a vehicle has ever been deemed unsafe to be on the road. If you live in a state that requires vehicle inspections, this is good information to have so you can be confident your new used car will be up to code.
AutoCheck is the less expensive option compared to Carfax. This is yet another reason why they are preferred by dealerships and sellers who have a large inventory. As of 2021, a single report costs $24.99, a package of 25 reports over 21 days is $49.99, and the limit of 300 reports plan is $99.99.
One of the major benefits of using AutoCheck is the price. The package deals make it affordable to run checks on multiple vehicles. If you are serious about comparing used cars, you will want to make sure you are running a check on each one that you are considering.
AutoCheck is also a good option if you like the idea of a score that you can look at in one glance. Again, if you are running reports on multiple vehicles, this is a great way to make a quick judgment on each one. If you don’t want to be weeding through a lot of specific information, AutoCheck could be the best option for you.
While the scoring system can be useful, it can also be a drawback. The narrow range of numbers means that a small difference in an AutoCheck score could mean that there is a significant issue in the car’s history. If you are looking for very specific reports and information, this may not be the right choice.
The database that AutoCheck uses is also not as comprehensive as Carfax’s. It does not include maintenance records, service history, or any information on regular emissions inspections. Its database is simply not as large as Carfax’s so the report is not going to be as accurate as it could be with a different option.
What is a Vehicle History Report?
Vehicle history reports collect data from many different motor vehicle agencies like the DMV, insurance companies, and law enforcement, who track cars using the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. Any time a car shows up in the records of one of these agencies, it will be logged in the history report and will then be available for viewing by anyone who runs one.
Vehicle history reports usually contain information like whether the vehicle has been in any reported accidents, which resulted in a branded title or been subjected to any damage. They will also tell you all the times it has been bought or sold as well as the title and registration history, which comes from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or NMVTIS. Using this information, you can piece together the complete history of the car.
When to Get a Vehicle History Report
Whenever you are purchasing a used vehicle, you should gain access to a report to check up on the car’s history. However, it is most important to get one if you are buying from a private seller. People who are selling cars tend to leave out things like accidents and damage in the interest of making a sale. Getting a history report can help you be as informed as you can without having to rely on the word of the individual.
Most used car dealerships will offer a vehicle history report with every car they’re selling. If they don’t offer you one for free, this is a red flag that you should absolutely get one. Request the VIN number of any car you are looking at as a potential buyer and get your own report from either AutoCheck or Carfax. This will allow you to independently make sure that you are getting a vehicle with a clean history.
Getting a Free Vehicle History Report
If you are buying a used vehicle from a dealership or car lot, they should always provide you with a free vehicle history report. If they refuse, the odds are good that you shouldn’t be buying from that particular dealership.
Many online dealerships will provide you with either a Carfax report or an AutoCheck report before you start the process at all. This is an incredibly important feature to look for in an online dealership since it can help you decide whether you want to move forward with buying the car or not.
Getting the Most Accurate Vehicle History Report
The best way to get a complete picture of a used vehicle’s history is to get both a Carfax and AutoCheck report on it. While the Carfax report is more comprehensive, there may be some things that AutoCheck will have data on that you may not get access to if you only got a report from one of them.
The idea with a vehicle history report is to get as much data from as many different sources as possible. While it might not be financially feasible to get double reports on every vehicle you look at, it’s a good idea if you are starting to get close to a purchase.
Supplementing a Vehicle History Report for a Used Car
Just getting a vehicle history report is not enough to get a full picture of a vehicle’s condition. While it can tell you a lot of important information, there are some practical things you should do before you hand over any money.
A full mechanical inspection is a good idea for any car you are thinking about buying. If you have a mechanic you trust, bring them with you to give any vehicle you want to buy a full run-through. This should include inspections of the tires, suspension, powertrain, brakes, and steering systems.
Test driving is the only way you can truly know if a car has the right feel for you. If possible, see if you can get an extended test driving period. This will give you a chance to do some typical driving and let you know if you are comfortable and happy driving a vehicle or if you should look at some other similar cars
A vehicle history report from Carfax or AutoCheck can give you some excellent insight into a car’s history and how it has been treated by its previous owners. Having as much information as possible by purchasing both reports is the best way to get the peace of mind that comes with having the complete picture of a car’s past. The way it has been treated before you bought it will determine how long it lasts and how reliable it will be in the future.