You've probably heard of CARFAX before, but not necessarily in the realm of used car sales. You most likely know them for vehicle history reports, which are often compared to AutoCheck regarding price, usefulness, and content.
If you were unaware that CARFAX also offers information on car listings, then you're unfamiliar with the unique advantages the company brings to the process. Read on to learn why one of the nation's favorite vehicle report suppliers is also one of the best and most unique places to look for used car listings.
What is CARFAX?
CARFAX is a web-based service with its primary business focused on providing vehicle history reports. Its main competition in the marketplace is AutoCheck, with the two having many areas of crossover, as well as a few unique qualities. It was founded in 1984 in Columbia, Missouri, and has since become one of the industry mainstays and a trusted name for vehicle history.
What Does a CARFAX Report Contain?
If you've never privately purchased or seen their report before, you may not know the key highlights that have made them such a success. The company uses more than 100,000 sources for data to determine:
- Accident history
- Estimated annual mileage and total mileage
- If it was used as part of a fleet or commercial application before
- History of flood and other weather damage
- Lemon history
- Number of previous owners
- Odometer irregularities (if any) and latest readings
- OEM recalls
- Salvaged/rebuilt title history
- Service records
- Emissions test results
- Frame damage
- Title information (clean, salvaged, junk, lien, etc.)
- Warranty information
- And more
The purpose of the reports is to provide quality assurance to the buyer of a used car. By opening up the entire vehicle history, purchasers can better understand whether or not sellers are being transparent and if a classified ad is accurate and honest. Such reports are invaluable for consumers, but they aren't so cheap.
A single report is $39.99. You can save by buying multiple reports: $59.99 for three, and $99.99 for six. It's more expensive than AutoCheck in that regard; AutoCheck sells 25 reports for $49.99.
Reports are often purchased in bulk by car dealerships (including large operations like Carvana ) that provide them to offer quality assurance on used vehicles. It's a good idea for a private buyer to invest in a CARFAX report, but most only do it for a car they are serious about buying.
Therefore, the report becomes like a final reassurance that they're making the right decision, and if it turns up some error or hidden issue, then it was money well spent on the report.
The company even offers a Buyback Guarantee. If you purchase a car with information on its report that proves inaccurate, especially regarding title, lemon status, and mileage/odometer status, CARFAX will repurchase the car from you.
How Do CARFAX Used Car Listings Work?
So that's their report, but what about used car listings? Not everyone is aware that the website is also a great resource for looking up pre-owned listings. It's not necessarily the most comprehensive, but it uses features from its reports to help users refine searches based on reliability factors, which is a standout feature from its competitors.
Using the Used Cars Site
The CARFAX landing page for used cars is straightforward. Begin a search by using just the make or model of the vehicle (a Ford Mustang, for example), or conduct a more general search based on body style or price (such as a sedan under $12,000). You'll also need to enter a zip code to localize the search to your area.
Once the essential information is entered, you can check a box to filter out all listings except for certified pre-owned vehicles. You can also switch the search over to finding a dealership by hitting the "Find a Dealer" button at the bottom of the search box.
Regardless of search methodology (make/model or body type), a user is brought to the same second page, where the CARFAX differentiation factor can be seen. Additional filtering further narrows the results by choosing listings with:
- No Accidents or Damage Reported
- CARFAX 1-Owner
- Personal-Use History
- Service Records
No Accidents or Damage Reported refers to cars that, as the name suggests, have been confirmed as accident- or damage-free up to date. This means they are still in their original form and haven't undergone significant bodywork repairs or component replacement due to external damage.
CARFAX 1-Owner refers to vehicles confirmed by the company information to only have had one previous owner. This is important for those who want to find a car that hasn't changed hands many times. Multiple previous owners are suggestive of problems and can mean that service history is less reliable and possibly incomplete.
Personal-Use History refers to assurances if a vehicle has been exclusively used for personal use (compared to commercial use). Some cars may have been used as rentals, ride-hailing vehicles, or taxis. The CARFAX reports check for these occurrences and enable you to filter out these choices.
Service History refers to those vehicles with a complete service history as reported by CARFAX. It means there are no gaps in its service history, and the car has been at least maintained according to basic manufacturer requirements.
A narrowed search will then yield listings that display:
- Car model name and model year
- Status (of above-mentioned factors)
- Dealer name and location
- Mileage, color, body style, engine, and a basic description
The listings also indicate a price above or below the official CARFAX value. CARFAX values are based on market prices, so you can quickly see how an individual car stacks up against others in the marketplace. Click on a listing to get seller contact details and view a free CARFAX report.
Although you can't directly purchase the car via the CARFAX website, you can message the seller directly through the platform. There's no need to visit a third-party website.
What Are the Advantages of CARFAX Used Car Listings?
CARFAX used car listings offer numerous benefits to buyers.
Benefit 1: Trustworthiness
CARFAX is respected and trustworthy and backs up its offerings with the Buyback Guarantee. It's evidence that the company stands behind its reports and puts its money where its mouth is.
Benefit 2: Unique Filters
Many car buying sites allow filtering by model year, price, color, and feature, but none of them offer the same filtering based on vehicle history reports. It's a unique approach that helps validate a seller's claims.
Benefit 3: Free Reports
Looking through CARFAX used car listings means you'll have ready and free access to a detailed vehicle history report. Not only will this information help you finalize a buying a decision, but it also means not having to shell out $40 for a single report.
Drawbacks of CARFAX Used Cars Listings
There are two main disadvantages of CARFAX's listing.
#1: No Direct Sales
While CARFAX provides comprehensive search functionality, there's no option to complete a sale on the platform. Instead, you'll need to head to a third-party website to get the deal done. In truth, this is not an unusual step when dealing with car listing aggregator sites. Yet it stands in contrast to the simplicity preferred by many shoppers.
#2: Expensive Reports
Outside of CARFAX used car listings, you'll have to purchase vehicle history reports on your own dime. It can be an expensive step, especially if multiple vehicles are involved. The good news is that most dealerships will provide free vehicle reports as part of the sales process.