You’ve probably heard of CARFAX before, but not necessarily in the realm of used car sales. You most likely know them for their vehicle history reports, which are often compared to the likes of AutoCheck in terms of price, usefulness and content.
If you were unaware that CARFAX also offered information on car listings, then you are unaware of the unique advantages that it brings to the process. Read the rest of today’s blog to learn why it is that 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 the provision of vehicle history reports. Its main competition in the marketplace is AutoCheck, with the two having a number of areas of crossover, as well as a few unique qualities. It was founded back 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 no know the key highlights that have made them such a success over the years. The company uses more than 100,000 sources for data to determined all of the following things:
- 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
- Whether or not the car was salvaged/rebuilt
- Service history
- 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 vehicle. By opening up the entire vehicle history, buyers can better understand whether or not sellers are being transparent and whether or not information in a classified ad is accurate and honest. Such reports are an invaluable tool for consumers, but they aren’t so cheap.
A single report is $39.99. You can save if you buy multiple reports: $59.99 for 3 reports, and $99.99 for 6. It’s more expensive than AutoCheck in that regard. AutoCheck sells 25 reports for $49.99.
Reports are most often purchased in bulk by car dealerships who include them as part of their quality assurance on used vehicles. It’s a good idea for private buyers to invest in a CARFAX report, but most only do it for a car they have confidence is the one they want to buy.
The report therefore 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 where if you purchase a car with information on its report that proves to be inaccurate, especially regarding title, lemon status, and mileage/odometer status then they will buy the car back 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 when it comes to 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 landing page for used cars is very simple. You can begin a search using just the make or model of the car, or conduct a more general search using body style of price. So, if you specifically want to find an Audi TT or a Ford Mustang, you can, but if you just want a sedan for under $12,000, you can look for that as well. The other required piece of information is your local zip code so the system can find car listings in your area.
Once you’ve entered the basic information, you can also check a box to say whether or not you want 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. This instead will find any and all dealerships in your local area.
Regardless of how you search, by make/model or by body type, you come to the same second page, which is where the CARFAX differentiation factor can be really seen. Here you can filter your results by using unique report features. You can select a number of options, telling the system that you only want to see cars with one or more of the following:
- No Accidents or Damage Reported
- Personal Use
- Service History
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 that they are still in their original form and haven’t undergone any major bodywork repairs or component replacement due to external damage.
CARFAX 1-Owner refers to those vehicles that are confirmed by the company information to only have had one previous owner. This is important for those who want to find a vehicle that hasn’t changed hands lots of times. A single previous owner indicates that the car has been running well and so the other owner hasn’t sold it. Multiple previous owners is suggestive of problems, but also can mean that service history is less reliable and possibly incomplete.
Personal Use refers to their assurances on whether or not a vehicle has been exclusively used for personal use, or also for commercial use. Some cars may have been used as an Uber ride or taxi before, and that commercial use should appear in its history. The reports check for that, so you can filter out listings where the car was listed as anything other than personal use.
Service History refers to those vehicles for which they can guarantee a full and proper service history. It means there are no gaps in its service history and it has been at least serviced according to the basic OEM requirements.
After filtering your results down using these parameters, you’ll have listings that clearly 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 whether the price is above or below the official CARFAX value. CARFAX values are based on market prices, so you can quickly see if a car listing is being sold above or below that. Click on a listing to get contact details of the seller, and you can also view a free CARFAX report to go with it.
Although you can’t directly purchase the car via their website, you can message the seller directly through it, so you don’t need to visit any third-party websites to make first contact.
What Advantages Can One Get From CARFAX Listings?
From the description of how thei used car sales work, there are a number of clear benefits that present themselves:
Benefit 1: Trustworthiness
Their brand is a respected and trustworthy organization that backs up its actions with things like the Buyback Guarantee. That alone adds a great deal of weight and value to their report information when buying a used car because it shows that CARFAX is willing to put their money where their mouth is and stand by their product.
Benefit 2: Unique Filters
Lots of car buying sites allow you to filter on model year, price, colors and other features of the car, but none of them offer the same filtering based on vehicle history reports. That’s a special kind of filter that helps guarantee that the listing you’re viewing comes with solid data to back up the seller’s claims on quality.
Benefit 3: Free Reports
When you’re preparing to purchase via a used car listing, you can get free access to their expensive report. If you’re serious about a car, that report can be the last determining factor on whether or not you pull the trigger on that vehicle. When you consider that otherwise that single report would cost you nearly $40, it’s a pretty good money-saver.
Drawbacks of CARFAX Used Cars
There are 2 main drawbacks with using their service:
1. No Direct Sales
While CARFAX allows you to do a lot within their own platform, you can’t complete a sale via their platform. Sooner or later you have to start dealing with a third party. It’s actually quite common for many classified aggregator sites not to offer direct sales, but it remains a bugbear for a millennial generation that craves simplicity and comprehensive service from its online platforms.
2. Expensive Reports
You do get a free report with a used car listing, but if it ever comes to the need to purchase the reports yourself, they aren’t cheap, and it can add a lot of extra cost if you’re interested in multiple cars and have to invest in multiple reports.
The good news is that if you’re buying from dealerships, they should come as part of the deal, and if you look at listings via their own platform, you can get free reports that way, too.