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Old 05-14-2005, 06:20 AM   #1
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Car Fax- valuable or not?

We often get references to the use of Car Fax. Often, there are assumptions made about what Car Fax actually does for a prospective buyer. As a dealer, I thought I would shed some light on this subject from my experience and perspective.

Do Dealers use Car Fax when they buy a car?

Some do, some don't. Many dealers use Auto Check, which in my experience is a bit more accurate than Car Fax. Auto Check uses the Experian data base and is thought to be a better source of info.

Having said that, I can tell you that using these services is largely tied to the Title and Background information that they provide. If you learn to read these correctly, they can point out areas of concern tied to how the car's ownership and control changed over time.

They SHOULD also point out the more obvious areas of concern, such as Salvage, Grey Market, Lemon Law, TMU and other title related issues. In this sense, the cost of a Car Fax is a small price to pay to avoid any of these issues on a title. It can also point areas of concern that may be nothing but need to be investigated.

What about accidents?

Forget this feature on car fax, it is worthless. I can tell you that perhaps 1 in 20 cars with accident historys actually make it to the Car Fax data base.

The only way to figure out if your car has been in an accident is to take two key steps:

Does the car have paint work?
To determine this you need a paint meter. Any guy who says he can "spot" paint work 100% of the time is deluded or lying.

Does the car have undercarriage/frame damage?

The only way to tell this is to get the car up in the air and look. You need to have a pro look as some repairs are done very well indeed.

So, certainly run a Car Fax, or better yet, Auto Check. These will help confirm who has owned the car and when. However, before you buy that car, get it airborne and do it quickly.

Hope this helps.

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Old 05-14-2005, 07:00 AM   #2
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check out this "clean" title car:

"Vehicle was involved in a head on collision with both airbags deployed. At the time of the impact, the oil pan under the engine was cracked and the oil leaked out. Since the collision the engine was not turned on or run.

The rear end, front and rear doors are fine. Since there was no payout by insurance company, the Illinois title is still clear!"


I see those cars all the time for sale on Ebay. Crap like that could be fixed and never show up on a CarFax or Autocheck as being bad.

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Old 05-14-2005, 08:04 AM   #3
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"I see those cars all the time for sale on Ebay. Crap like that could be fixed and never show up on a CarFax or Autocheck as being bad."

Yes, the distinction between a clean title and accident history needs to be made. You can have a car that has never been in an accident but has some issue with its title, TMU, lemon law etc.

The reverse is true, a car with an accident in its past but the title is clean, that is, the accident is the only thing of note.

Of course, you want a car that has had no accidents (at least major ones) AND a clear title.

That is why the inspection is key. Not all accidents are the same.

My wife's car had the door replaced due to some dope backing into here. No frame involvement, a simple replacement.

I would not hesitate to buy her car.

On the other hand, I have seen cars like you referenced above sold after being repaired.

BOTH dealers and private party types may conceal this type of damage (BTW-I have found the honesty quotient about the same here).

Good stuff!
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Old 05-14-2005, 08:30 AM   #4
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I say use CarFax if you have no other resource. But if you do have access to a better database then trust that over CarFax.
And most importantly, USE YOUR OWN EYES AND TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS when you see the car in person.
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Old 06-24-2005, 10:00 AM   #5
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Well put tqtran.

I use CarFax to see if there's anything out there before I spend my time to go look at a car. I know it's not much info, but it's enough to let me know if it might be worth my time. I don't think it (or any other such service) should never be used in place of a PPI by a qualified mechanic. It should be a mechanic, not you. Even if you're "good with cars" your emotions over the car you are looking at often get in your way.
1987 928S4 Silver Metallic (980)/Navy (TP) 5-Speed
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Old 08-04-2005, 07:55 PM   #6
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What Brucelee saya about Car Fax in the original post is completely true.

A family member of mine owns a major collision chain and I have been told that cars with bent frames can be put on a rack and completely squared-up and will 9 out of 10 times be undetectable by a trained mechanic. Unless the mechanic sees Boxsters day in and day out the repairs will likely go unnoticed.

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