To Carfax or Not

September 30, 2009
Carfax is here, for better or worse. Every so often a new service pops up, and it dribbles along until it achieves critical mass and then it becomes a necessity and we got to have it. Carfax is at this point. It, along with Autocheck, another automotive database primarily used by the car trade professionals, is coming of age.  

Car buyers more often than not now ask about it, "Show me the Carfax!", "Have you run the Carfax?", etc. Well, one of the TV commercials promoting Carfax demands of a shifty car dealer that he produces the Carfax or else, no deal!  

So, for a fee of about $30 a buyer, or anybody interested, gets a record of any US vehicle by providing the VIN of the vehicle in question. The info they get is about numbers of previous owners, car accidents, mileage discrepancies, and of course, the biggie, the dreaded "branded title" mark of shame usually earned by a previous wreck written off by some insurance company adjuster and then badly repaired and passed off as a jewel by some unscrupolous reseller.  

Sounds good, and in this age of computer many may ask, "What took us so long"?  

But, a few words of caution before concluding that this little tool will be the cure all to end all automotive shenanigans and keep all shady car dealers honest.  

As all things computer, someone must enter the information we are hoping to glean. Imagine that Bubba A takes his Mustang on a midnight run, and runs it into a ditch causing some serious undercarriage damage which would require thousand to repair. But Bubba A calls his cousin Cooter B and he brings his wrecker, and the two car guys do some cosmetic repairs and then, aware that the previously pristine Mustang is no longer the steed it once was, is put up for sale and advertised as "like new". The Carfax guy is not lurking around the corner, and so, no one will ever know.  

What if Floyd L buys a brand new Honda Accord and after racking 150k miles on his extensive commute between Los Angeles, where he works, and Temecula, where he lives, he decides to sell the now high mileage Accord and advertises it as having low, low, 25k miles? How did he do that? He is a bit of techy and simply disconnected the odometer. Oh, he did a couple of oil changes in the driveway of his house, so, the car is still pretty much ok but the price he is asking, and likely to get will be thousands more than if the miles were correctly shown. He, shockingly, failed to notify Carfax! 

And then, Lateesha who loves her 2005 BMW and takes it to the dealer religiously for service, this one time, and totally unbeknownst to her, had the service writer mistakenly read, and note, her mileage as 75,000 instead of the actual 25,000. Oh, oh! The Carfax picked up that info, as the BMW reports to their database, and  Lateesha will be unpleasantly surprised to find that when she tries to sell her car that the potential buyer will be staring a big MILEAGE DISCREPANCY  warning in the Carfax report. And he will run!  

There can be many such examples if unreported, misreported Carfax items, what's a buyer to do then? The point is, someone must tell Carfax! Lacking that, if your car has stayed out of the "system", no one will know! Just use your judgement-there could be an over reliance on this sort of information but the surest way to deal with it is to make it just another tool, among many others when investigating a car purchase. Carfax is not infallible and while their service is helpful it is by no means foolproof or a must.

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