Is Carfax Better Than Its Competitors?

September 24, 2010

Carfax promises the world in their ads. I've used Carfax once, but the information wasn't impressive. Have they improved? Is their competitor AutoCheck better or worse?

Carfax can be as good as their ads promise, but is not consistently that good, nor is it always better than the two other services out there. Yes, I am often impressed by Carfax's reports. They can provide precise and invaluable information Many times I've learned things the other services miss. Yet there are times when Carfax reports are no better or worse than the others, or are sadly inferior to the other services.

It is because Carfax does proved to be invaluable at time that I use it all the time. As I said above, AutoCheck will sometimes provide better and/or different information. And there are times when AutoCheck is no better or worse, or sadly inferior to Carfax.

Is free better? There is also the little-known free service called VINcheck, a service of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. While less detailed than Carfax and AutoCheck, the scope of their information has sometimes provided the same conclusions Carfax or AutoCheck provides at a cost. A free VINcheck recently helped a client reject an otherwise very attractive car that was once totaled in an accident, a fact that Carfax and AutoCheck both missed!

Because I find and negotiate car deals for consumers, I don't take chances. I must use use all three services in order to scrutinize every promising used vehicle thoroughly.

There's never a time when these VIN histories eliminate the need for a pre-purchase inspection. A mechanical, structural and cosmetic inspection is the final and most important way to determine any vehicle's actual condition. However, we don't spend the money for an inspection before all VIN histories are reviewed, and a vehicle appears to have an excellent history.

Carfax and AutoCheck each cost around $45. Running both services is best, if it's affordable. I know it is worth the $90 from running thousands of VIN histories, and finding one or the other's revelations critically superior or more comprehensive than the other. More often than not, both provide the same information. However, for my customers, I won't take the chance of missing something critical by only checking one and not them all.

If you cannot afford both, I would hesitantly recommend AutoCheck over Carfax, despite the times when Carfax revealed more critical data not found in the same car's AutoCheck report. My reasons for favoring AutoCheck include:

1. Carfax currently limits you to only five reports while AutoCheck provides unlimited reports.

2. There have been numerous occasions when AutoCheck revealed a vehicle as being listed at auction as "frame damaged", while Carfax didn't indicate any history of damage.

3. The odds of Carfax revealing something AutoCheck missed is modest. It is less a factor if you get a free VINcheck report and then get a free Lemon Check® report courtesy of Carfax. The latter identifies vehicles deemed a "lemon" legally, and that were purchased back by a manufacturer from the first owner.


Doug Ehrlich is the owner of Auto Buyer's Pro, the first licensed Buyer's Agent in the country, who has spent the last 24 years assisting over 20,000 individuals make good decisions and then negotiating car deals for the same clients as their Buyer's Agent.

For easy access to all of Doug Ehrlich's articles, go to www.HelpDoug.ORG. Email Doug at doug@autobuyerspro.comor call 303-888-8889.

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