Used car managers can be a sleazy bunch, trust me I used to be one! When you meet one of these managers on a used car lot beware. They have an arsenal of selling tools that you don’t even know exist. There are however, easy to remember tips that you can use to protect yourself while shopping for a used car. Today we’re discussing the CARFAX report.
What is a CARFAX report? (actual info – Feb. 2017)
CARFAX reports provide with the history of any used car. A complete report will give you 4 key items.
First is a title check
The title of a vehicle should tell you if the car is a registered lemon, has been salvaged, was flooded or completely rebuilt. I have known managers who keep two sets of titles, the old title, and the new title. The old title has the vehicles old history and doesn’t disclose anything. The new title would indeed show the status as being a “salvaged” vehicle, but they tend to forget to show you the new title. A CARFAX report will give you the status of the title regardless of what the actual title says.
Second is an odometer check
The most common need for this is a rolled back odometer. I have seen 2 vehicles with a rolled back odometer. One I could instantly tell something wasn’t right, but the other would have fooled me. It was a 5 year old car that was registered in Montana. The odometer said 68,000 miles which is reasonable for a car 5 years old. When I pulled the CARFAX as I always did it showed that the vehicle had a smog check done about 300 miles away and the vehicle had 137,000 miles at the time! I asked the customer about the discrepancy and he walked out immediately! Without the CARFAX I would have been stuck with a vehicle with a rolled back odometer.
Third is a what CARFAX calls the “Problem Check”
The problem check is a little vague, but gives some great information. It will tell you if the vehicle has been in a major accident (even if it wasn’t salvaged), was sold at a salvage auction (even if it wasn’t salvaged), has been involved in a fire (never buy a car involved in a fire), or if it was stolen. If a vehicle has been in a major accident, I would avoid it completely. Vehicles involved in accidents tend to have more problems throughout the years, and won’t be worth the money you’ll save.
Lastly is the registration check
Most of this information is available at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV, or whatever your state calls it), but CARFAX organizes the information for you to see and understand. The registration check will tell you how the vehicle has been registered in the past. Different types of registrations are handled differently by the DMV. This report will tell you if the vehicle was used as a rental, police car (even for undercover operations), taxi, fleet, or even if it was leased (and to whom it was leased). This information will help you better understand the history of the vehicle and how it was cared for. Fleet cars are taken care of extremely well, and I’ll tell you why in a later article.
CARFAX reports usually cost about $25 and are worth every penny. Many dealerships have a contract with CARFAX and can pull a this report at no cost to you. I pulled a CARFAX on every vehicle I sold and kept them in a binder to show customers. My cost was less than $10 for each report. If you are progressing through the sales process, and the manager can see you’re serious he won’t have a problem pulling a CARFAX for you.
As you can see, for $25 a CARFAX report can provide you with peace of mind, but also can potentially save you from a major used car buying problem!