How Does Information Get On a CARFAX Report?

August 23, 2010 at 5:00 am 44 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

It’s not unusual for somebody to completely destroy their car and walk away unharmed.

This happens because newer cars are designed to crumple on impact, just like a bike helmet made from dense foam. The frame, hood and even the power train components absorb the energy from the impact in order to help protect the occupants. Of course, air bags may also deploy, which protect the occupants from hitting hard surfaces inside the vehicle.

When an insurance company declares a car as a “total loss” it means they are not going to pay to fix the car; although, they may sell the vehicle to somebody who plans to use it for spare parts. That person may then fix the car and try to sell it.

Unfortunately, a car that has been in a major accident may have hidden safety and reliability problems. So, if you’re buying a used car, you’ll want to know its history.

If you’ve ever looked at a used car, you’ve probably come across CARFAX.

It’s a service that provides historical information about used cars. For $35 or less, you can enter the VIN (vehicle identification number) of a used car and get a report about its ownership, accident history, mileage discrepancies, lemon status, flood damage, fleet use (taxi, police…etc) and many other things the seller may not want you to know.

I think this is a great idea, but I’ve always wondered how they get all the information.

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I was talking to a guy that runs an auto body shop, so I asked him. He said that he has done work on cars that were nearly totaled and the information did not show up on CARFAX; he had also done minor work that has shown up.

He said that CARFAX buys info from insurance companies and other sources. Some insurance companies have a non-disclosure agreement, where they will not disclose information about your car and its accidents while other insurance companies are willing to sell that information to make money.

I verified this information with CARFAX and it’s true. CARFAX gets information from thousands of sources and has over 6 billion records on file. They have deals with motor vehicle bureaus in every US State and Canadian Province, where they get information about mileage, flood damage, titles, lemon buybacks, accidents, thefts, liens and ownership transfers.

They also get information from auto auctions, car dealers, repair and service facilities, rental companies, state inspection stations, fire departments, law enforcement, car manufacturers, import/export companies and many others. That’s not to say that all companies of these types provide this information, but many do.

In some cases, they have mutually beneficial relationships. For example, car dealers may provide information about vehicles they service, but they may also request information about used cars that they want to take as trade-ins, buy at auctions or sell to their customers.

In any case, CARFAX warns that they may not always have all of the information, since there are many sources that they do not have access to. In 2005, they had 6,100 sources of information. Now, they have grown  to over 34,000 sources.

CARFAX does provide a couple of free services that may be worth while if you’re purchasing a used car. The Lemon Check is one of them. This free service, will tell you if the car you’re about to buy was ever declared a lemon, meaning it was serviced for the same problem 3 times and bought back from the owner by the manufacturer. You definitely want to avoid a lemon.

You can also perform a record check with CARFAX for free. This will tell you how many records they have on file for the VIN you entered. If you’re thinking about buying a CARFAX report, you should try this free option first to see if it’s worth buying the report about the car you’re interested in.

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Sources: CARFAX (Data Sources) MSN, MyVin

Photo: Ian Hampton (cc), jasonbolonski (cc)

Entry filed under: Automotive, Demystified. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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44 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shannon  |  August 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Very interesting… I always wondered the same thing.

    Reply
  • 2. Brian  |  August 25, 2010 at 2:23 am

    I always hated the CarFax commercials that trick people into thinking it’s a 100% reliable source.
    My car has been involved in 4 accidents in the 10 years and 200,000 miles I’ve owned it, yet my CarFax history is clean.
    Why?
    I’ve never once went through insurance.
    Each accident was the other party’s fault and I managed to settle without filing an insurance claim.
    I’ve fixed everything on my own at independent shops.
    Clean history!
    I would never lie about this when selling my car.

    But can you imagine how many others would?

    Reply
  • 3. mary m  |  October 14, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    “Autocheck” picks up incidents “Carfax” does not. It is from Experion.

    Reply
  • 4. d. lassoff  |  July 5, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Went to Carfax and entered the VIN and clicked for the Lemon Report, but was refused saying I had to buy the information.

    Reply
  • 5. vin check (@CheckVin)  |  August 17, 2011 at 8:07 am

    There also another service provider, vin-wiz.com. Now they provide free vin check service. They also offering unlimited vin check report generator in cheap rate. check out this –> vin check

    Reply
  • 6. Dan Johnson  |  September 3, 2011 at 3:38 am

    “”newer cars are designed to crumple on impact, just like a bike helmet made from dense foam”
    That’s total bullshit if cars where made out of one solid peace that would be true but the Fact is that there are not made out of my solid peace . Cars are made out of thousands of parts and if your smart enough to see the truth its that cars are designed and made to brake be damaged and fixed!! That’s why theirs parts sold at your local dealer and part stores.
    I spend $35 on some stupid carfax that didn’t show me anything about a car i wanted to buy. All it had in the cars history was when and where it was registered and date of registration lol.
    WAIST OF MONEY I DONT RECOMMEND CARFAX IT S NOT ACCURATE INFORMATION IF IT EVEN IS IT DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH OF IT!! DON’T WAIST YOUR MONEY

    Reply
    • 7. L Johnson  |  September 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      Deer Dan,
      At 3:38 in the morning, perhaps you ought to have been sleeping instead of trying to spell. You may well have had some valid points to make, but everyone who has reads your post must think you are illiterate. I pray you get some reading help.

      Reply
      • 8. Fred McCutty  |  May 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm

        ‘everyone who has reads your post’ amazing that you try to call someone out on spelling and get it wrong in the process.

      • 9. Mo  |  December 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm

        “Deer Dan” ? Enough said.

    • 10. Good Guy Greg  |  February 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      I don’t understand why a car can only be designed to crumple if it is made from one piece? Look at the underside of the hood on almost any modern car and you’ll see very uneven ribbing in the sheet metal. This isn’t a stylistic design element, it’s done to control how the hood absorbs the energy from a crash (when it crumples). Maybe you were just joking around though, every word you used that can be spelled two ways, you spelled the wrong way.

      Reply
      • 11. willlam  |  November 20, 2013 at 11:06 am

        iTS TRUE. A car is design to absorb the kenetic energy from a crash and disppelling the force around the cabin. Mostly European cars use this technology. I have seen Mercedes, Jaguars and Porsche with frontal impact at speeds great and 35MPH and only the L/R panels and hood was damaged.

    • 12. miok  |  November 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      youre an idiot. cars are made to crumble to take the energy out of collisions. but you probably did not go to high school so you missed the science class that talks about kinetic energy.

      Reply
  • 13. Angel Grace  |  September 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Deer L Johnson, L must stand for LOSER!

    Reply
  • 14. articles | Why a vehicle history report isn't enough  |  October 10, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    [...] it is important to understand how information gets onto a vehicle history report.  AutoCheck and CARFAX get this information by purchasing it from insurance companies, car [...]

    Reply
  • 15. articles | Why a vehicle history report isn't enough  |  October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    [...] it is important to understand how information gets onto a vehicle history report.  Both AutoCheck and CARFAX get this information by purchasing it from insurance companies, car [...]

    Reply
  • 16. My boss wrecked my new Tundra CrewMax 4X4!! - Page 4  |  November 19, 2011 at 1:13 am

    [...] [...]

    Reply
  • 17. din  |  November 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

    went to see a 2007 jetta and the only carfax the dealer could not show me was an entry at 26 miles in 2007. the car in question now has 104k miles .. my question is how could a 2007 vehicle have no reports expect at 26 miles in 2007 !!!!!don

    Reply
    • 18. Brian C  |  February 2, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Did you even read the article? Once you read the article, you will understand how car fax works and then you’ll understand how it can only have 1 or even 0 entries.

      A clean police background check doesn’t mean you didn’t commit any crimes, it just means you didn’t get caught. Same thing with car fax, there’s no guarantee they will catch everything.

      Reply
  • 19. Roger Davolt  |  February 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Don’t always believe what you read. It was put on paper by someone probably not as smart as you. Most things are not always as the appear to be. Watch any person running for a government job.

    Reply
  • 20. Jason  |  March 22, 2012 at 6:05 am

    We can never tell, this days we just have to be very careful, carfax is expensive I go to vinaudit.com for car history reports for only $9.99

    Reply
  • 21. R.Massey  |  April 22, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Carfax is B/S! It shows there are 5 records on my car when I have never wrecked my car. I went to trade my car in last night at the Nissan dealer where I purchased my car and was told my car had been wrecked, I have never wrecked my car ever the whole time I have owned it. I did have some guy driving a truck pulling a trailer who had a hinge pin fall off the trailer and landed on my hood creating a big hole in my hood but I did not wreck my car!!! Had I not veered after getting hit by this it would have come straight into the drivers side and could have killed me then maybe I would have wrecked my car. The dealership that I tried to buy a new car at is the dealer that replaced my hood so they have this on record. They tried telling me I wrecked my car and had overspray inside on one of the fenders, I told them if there is overspray then their bodyshop did it!!! So, no I do not believe Carfax should even be in business, I think the info they get is half ass at best!

    Reply
    • 22. Donna B  |  May 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

      If the insurance sells the info on a claim, and it ends up making your vehicle an letch to sell or trade in, then you should at least get compensated from the insurance co. We are in the same boat.

      Reply
    • 23. C Owen  |  April 20, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Agreed.. same type of thing happened to me.. p/u truck with snow plow backed into mine.. dented the trunk lid.. I had it replaced.. they show ACCIDENT, Dealership wanted to give me only $7k for my car.. when it was worth at least $10k

      Reply
  • 24. KJT  |  May 4, 2012 at 1:34 am

    R.Massey- It helps to read up on what the report is telling you. When a CarFax report or even Autocheck Vehicle History Report will come back with the term “Records.” A Record does not tell you if it is a bad report or record. It is just telling you the VIN you used came back with (in the example above by R.Massey) 5 records on that car. The records could be some regular service done on your car, the catalytic convertor was replaced, and on and on and on. This is why you need to read the report, especially the section that has recorded the records. For example, I got the AutoCheck Vehicle History Report on my 2009 VW Jetta. it came back first telling me the record has 7 records, but none of the “Records” were negative. They were all positive records such as completing a scheduled maintenance, repairing some pit holes from a cement truck driving on the freeway in front of me dropping pebbles all over the highway, including on my windshield, which left pit marks. I had the pit marks repaired and that was documented as a “Record.”

    Reply
    • 25. marc99gt  |  September 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      Exactly!

      Reply
  • 26. Ben walum  |  December 29, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Any used car in good condition should have a compression test on the engine and a inspection of other components before purchase. who wants a car that has been driven on very short trips or at very high speeds. the accident history is only half the picture

    Reply
  • 27. i. varzari  |  January 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I had 2 minor accidents with my Nissan Murano since i purchase it brand new. The carfax show 3 accidents instead of 2. The funny part is that the dates for 3rd accident where exactly the same with one year apart. Some one sold to carfax the same information twice with the interval of one year. It does damage the car history more than the accident itself.
    If carfax wants to make an honest business from this, they must provide with some details of the accident, otherwise should not be posted.

    Reply
    • 28. KJT  |  January 17, 2013 at 12:29 am

      CarFax is a scam. They could have had a legit and ethical business but money got them to do it a different way. I guess some of their reports are accurate, but a lot of them are not because like insurance companies they will take the $$$ instead of the truth.

      Reply
    • 29. Steve  |  November 22, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      I totally agree, I had minor dent in my new Mustang as a result of someone backing into it in a parking lot. I insisted on a new fender since the car was only 3 months old. Now the dealer wants to give me 3k less on a trade in since it has a bad report.

      Reply
      • 30. Gayle Tantau  |  January 17, 2014 at 8:30 pm

        Steve, my new car was hit by a garbage truck on 12/23/13. My insurance, CSAA, found fault with the garbage company. However, now I am worried that my new 2014 Mercedes c class250 has gone way down in value. I bought it in Nov. 2013 and had less than 500 miles on it. I am worried that Carfax will give me a bad report and my new car will go down in value. I am wondering, if legally, I can go after the garbage company for more compensation due to what will be a bad Carfax report. My car is still in the body shop.

  • 31. cassidy richard  |  March 17, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Carfax is not always accurate. The car we almost bought was drivin by someone else for a week then brought back. The same thing happen to us but we had it for two weeks. This is not on the carfax. Both of us buyers or thought to be buyers were able to take this car home from the dealership thinking we were approved and bought the car. Well aparently the dealership has ten days to obtain you financing, if they cant you have to bring the car back. In our case, we had to come back and sign a new contract for higher payments. Another week went by after signing the contract and they still couldnt obtain the financing. We brought thecar back. Not one of these incedents were reported to carfax and we had sex in the car. Haha! You better think twice before you buy a used car without warranty

    Reply
  • 32. V. Rogers  |  April 25, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    I save all the records from anything done on my vehicles. When I go to sell, I put the records in chronological order and place the pile right on the front seat. A car will sell a lot quicker when the maintenance history and everything else is sitting right there.

    Reply
  • 33. Joelle  |  June 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    What totally sucks about Carfax is that banks rely upon it to decide if they want to loan money on a vehicle as if it is “Bible”. Carfax is not true or accurate. We now own a car that was purchased at auction by a car dealer that was totally wrecked, the car dealership fixed it, sold the car to us AND THEN reported it to Carfax. So when he was selling the car, the car came up clean, and he did not tell us about the accident AND now it has a mark on it that the air-bag was deployed. If it had been accurate at the time of purchase, the bank would not have loaned the money and we would have not bought the car, and now the trade in/resell value has dropped $3000!!

    Reply
  • 34. Sessen  |  June 30, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    WARNING! I also was going to do a lease assumption on a 2012 BMW 328i 4 Door Sedan FJ88612 through swapalease.com. This car was in a major accident and almost totaled May 10, 2013 and the Carfax report showed no accidents. I emailed CarFax to update the records as this person Nicole Vaskell was trying to commit fraud and never told me about any accidents until AFTER we both signed the last step papers for a lease transfer. She said she was expecting twins and there is no proof she is married nor pregnant. She was in a major accident on this BMW WBA3A5C57CFJ88612. I want to warn anyone who is thinking about taking over her BMW lease on swapalease. I have the complete report from the mechanic.

    Reply
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  • 36. Tater  |  November 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    One rainy night I was stopped at a red light. A car came up behind me & slammed on his brakes to stop but he barely hit my back bumper. The only thing I could see is maybe something that looks like part of a license plate ring. If you didn’t know about this incident you would not know that it was even bumped. I was always taught when you had an accident, you call the police. The other guy took off & the policeman said he could see no damage to the bumper other than maybe the spot that looks like an slight imprint of the license plate ring & we are still not sure that is what it is or if there was just a flaw in the bumper. The car if very clean, has been well taken care of and has only 34,580 miles on it & it is a 2007. But since this incident appeared on Car Fax instead 12,500 the dealer would only give me 8,500. So about $4000. that bump cost me. I just don’t think that is fair. Car Fax should have to describe the accident in detail so you know exactly what was done. I had no real damage to the bumper so I think they should have to list that accident or incident & what repairs was done to the car after the accident. I did no repairs since there was nothing to repair, but according to Car Fax they cost me $4000 on trading it in when I wanted to purchase another used vehicle. So now I will try to sell it to someone that will appreciate a very good used car. Car Fax needs to broaden there information on items they are reporting. I just hope the used vehicle I am buying that the car fax is correct & not falsified.

    Reply
  • 37. Januari H  |  December 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    CARFAX IS as CROOK as a COP who wrote me the ticket. I had a car accident on Oct 2013, I rear ended a freightliner (bigger than semi truck), my car is Nissan against that big huge truck and it’s messed up the hood and radiator. There is no air bag was deployed and I just found out car fax had it report as multiple airbag is deployed. That’s bullshit….I don’t know where exactly carfax got their report from but I know for sure the cop who wrote me the ticket is lying about anything and everything on his statement on the stand under oath, saying my air bag was deployed when it’s not and I have proof of it from my ins company and final invoice from collusion place. the cop said he arrived 15 mins later when the truth is he arrived an hour later and also I have proof of it from my ticket it was stamp an hour later, and there so many other things the cop lied about my accident. maybe CARFAX got it from police report. I’m still fighting this report and the ticket. I will go to media if I can’t come up with any other solution, so far I have tried everything including contacting carfax to fix this inaccurate report about my car, but they never answer my email, request nor pick up the phone. so, please if anybody wants to support me bring down this crooked CARFAX contact me at 253-271-6778. Jan.

    Reply
  • 38. CARFAX or No Facts? :: Jerry Taylor Ford  |  December 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    […] CARFAX has one of the most  comprehensive databases for a vehicle’s history. Chad Upton from brokensecrets.com spoke with a representative of the company and reported “CARFAX gets information from […]

    Reply
  • […] How Does Information Get On a CARFAX*Report? | Broken Secrets Free VIN record check at CARFAX car history Answered my question […]

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  • […] answer many of these types of questions. Take a few minutes of your time to read this article. How Does Information Get On a CARFAX*Report? | Broken Secrets Hope this helps. __________________ Richard Z Las Cruces, NM 2009 Jaguar XK XKR Portfolio […]

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  • 41. Chandra  |  March 16, 2014 at 3:59 am

    Carfax has now also gotten into service shops. I have family who own a quick lube and all of their information now goes to Carfax. Every oil change, tune up brake job, etc. Not sure if that’s good or bad. Can show how well a car was maintained or make every little mistake drop the car’s value. It’s nice to have all of that info but I really hope it doesn’t go overboard and make it where every time you get a door ding fixed carfax tattles on you.

    Reply
  • 42. carmen salaices  |  March 24, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    i bought a car a year ago. they gave me a carfax I tgink its falsefied. can u please contact me an let me know if u did this paper or not

    Reply
  • 43. C Owen  |  April 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

    in my case the Carfax shows 2 ACCIDENTS . My car was never in an accident,, i had the trunk lid replaced because it was damaged by a snow plow on a p/u truck at work,., while it was parked (he backed into it) . Also a tree branch went thru a vent in the front bumper & I had that replaced. It also shows that my back bumper was replaced.. which is was NOT.. so I don’t low where they get this info from.. its inaccurate.. I went to trade my car in and they came with offering me way below what the car should be worth.. they said.. its been in 2 accidents.. when i tried to explain they didn’t want to hear it.

    Reply
  • 44. KJT  |  February 10, 2013 at 6:09 am

    I have no idea if this autovin.de is a reputable website or not. For car reports that go off of the VIN and use the car’s history in the USA, I would be hesitant to use a “.de” website which means that they are located in Germany. Carfax already has a lot of abuse in their system of reporting accurate and honest facts about one’s car history. I would stick with a company based in the USA to increase your chances of getting a semi accurate report, and if you do find something that is not accurate you will be in a much better position to try and correct the mistakes if the company is in this country. As far as Autocheck I do not know enough about this company to make a suggestion either way. This is my opinion and I give it here to help one avoid increasing their chances of paying for a report that would be more likely to be inaccurate and also be in a position to not be able to do anything about the inaccurate information coming from a website registerd in Germany. Ultimately it is your decision as to if you want to take your chance on a German company reporting an accurate Carfax report or not.

    Reply

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