How Do Car History Reports Work?
The guys over at Edmunds.com explain it like this:
Most vehicle history report companies work in a similar way. A used-car shopper types a VIN into the company's Web site and immediately receives a report on the vehicle's history. Most companies sell either a single report for a set fee or, for a higher price, a subscription to run multiple reports for a limited time, which is usually a month.
A vehicle history report provides information drawn from an ever-expanding variety of databases. Most importantly, the report tells shoppers if a car has a "branded" title. Branding means an insurance company has declared the vehicle a total loss and given it a salvage title because of an accident, flood damage or other catastrophic event.
Typically, the information on a vehicle history report includes a summary and an overall evaluation of the vehicle supported with details, dates and locations. The report makes it easy to see if the car has been registered in numerous states. Other information can include a description of the vehicle, number of previous owners, accident information, verification of recent mileage (which could include an alert for odometer rollback) and lemon and recall checks.
Some vehicle history report companies provide additional features or information. For example, AutoCheck provides a vehicle "score" — a number and a range — like 85 out of a range of 60-90. This shows how the vehicle compares to other similar cars built that year. CARFAX reports sometimes have information other vehicle history reports don't list, such as service department records.
The mileage verification that a vehicle history report provides is especially important for buyers. Mechanics record the mileage each time there is a smog check, change of registration or other event in the vehicle's history. If the mileage recordings are not sequential, meaning that they get higher each time, it could mean someone rolled back the odometer.
Although it's illegal, a quick trip to a "spinner," who is someone who turns back odometers, could be worthwhile for an unethical seller. Turning back an odometer 10,000 miles can increase the sale price of a typical car by at least $600. And contrary to popular belief, it's easier to roll back a digital odometer than it is a mechanical one.
Many used car buyers use CARFAX, however, it is not a perfect system. There is plenty of opportunity for information to go unreported, such as automobile repairs that were never reported to an insurance company or reputable repair shop.
CARFAX does, however, collect data from multiple sources to provide the best information possible about the life of a vehicle. These sources include motor vehicle bureaus in the United States and Canada, insurance agencies, garages and service stations, local police, rental agencies, and about a thousand others. Their level of access is constantly increasing, having grown from around 6,100 sources in 2005 to more than 34,000 today.
CARFAX is a great tool for uncovering information about any used car, but it is not more than that. Whenever you’re in the market for a new car, do your own research too. Take a test drive, ask questions, AND get a CARFAX report.