Carfax vs AutoCheck – Which is Better?

Written on:June 22, 2011
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Carfax vs Autocheck Which One’s Better?: Before 1984, consumers were very much in the dark when buying a used car. Dishonesty was so rampant in the used car business that many decided buying new was the only way to be sure of getting a reliable car.

Only bringing a used car to an independent mechanic for a thorough inspection could tell consumers if they could expect a car to last. These inspections were expensive. Carfax saw the need for an easy and cheap way for buyers to learn more about a car before pulling their wallets out for a mechanical inspection. So, they entered the market in 1984 with vehicle history reports.

Vehicle History Reports: The Early Years

The Carfax service was pre-Internet, and the company sent vehicle history reports by fax. By the time the Internet opened up in 1995, business was good, with 100 million reports furnished. Carfax launched its Web presence in 1998 and continued to grow. Back then, Carfax was the only game in town. Most of Carfax’s business has been dealership based. The reports have become a bonus that dealers can offer to consumers who express doubts about buying a particular used car.

The Internet changed car buying forever. Suddenly, consumers could share information easily, getting all the information they needed to judge a car before arriving at the dealer’s lot. Carfax became a big part of that research process, although the pricing did not always make sense on a consumer level.

Carfax commonly negotiates prices with vendors, so individual consumers do not have the benefit of a simple pricing structure. In 2002, vehicle history reports became more consumer-focused with the entrance of AutoCheck into the market.

Owned by Experian, AutoCheck offers competitively priced reports on an individual basis for consumers. They can buy a single report, or an unlimited number of reports for one month, making AutoCheck a valuable tool for both car shoppers and dealers alike.

Simplicity for Consumers, In-Depth Reports for High-End Purchases

LeeAnn Shattuck is the “Chief Car Chick” at Women’s Automotive Solutions, a consulting firm that helps women buy cars through the entire car buying process in order to save time and money without the frustration of traditional car shopping. LeeAnn uses both Carfax and Auto Check, depending on the car she investigates. LeeAnn explains, ‘Just because a Carfax is “clean”, does not mean that the vehicle has not been in an accident. Conversely, an accident that is reported to Carfax may be very minor and not affect the quality of the car.’ In those cases, the reports are good negotiating tools for getting a better price on the car.

For this reason, says LeeAnn, buyers should always have the vehicle checked for prior damage and paintwork before committing to buy. Although vehicle history reports are supposed to show the maintenance history of a vehicle, it is rare to see the information displayed. “Most franchise dealerships report maintenance to Carfax, but not all vehicles are maintained by a dealer. The maintenance history of a vehicle is just as important (if not more) than accident history.”

An inspection by an independent mechanic (one who is trained to look for prior repairs/paint work as well as service history) is essential when purchasing a used vehicle. A vehicle history report is just the first place to start when researching a used vehicle.

LeeAnn believes that AutoCheck reports may be the best for most consumers because it provides the information in a simple, organized format that is easy for consumers to read. More expensive car purchases may warrant a Carfax because the report is more detailed, showing information that a professional car buyer might want to see.

Only as Good as the Information Source

Bike Lowell, co-founder of the auto advice website agrees. “Carfax is not the end all be all – they don’t have all the records.” Having worked for Carfax, Bike understands how the information is collected. He explained that no vehicle history repot could have all of the information about a car. The reports are only as good as the information provided to them by state agencies and other sources.

If the information is entered incorrectly at the DMV, it will show up incorrectly on a vehicle history report. Despite this, Bike continues to have faith in vehicle history reports. He believes that recommending both Carfax and AutoCheck to buyers is part of his website’s mission of being there every step of the way for car buyers, from research, to checking out the car, selling, and financing.

Each Service Has its Advantages

Andrew Shipp, Business Development Manager at Cincinnati’s oldest car dealership, Busam Nissan also uses both vehicle history-reporting services. He explained that Carfax is used most often by his dealership because the name is instantly recognized by consumers. The dealership uses AutoCheck too, and has never had a problem with either service. He agrees that these reports are tools to begin the car-buying decision and that independent mechanical inspections are vital to making a good decision when looking at a used car. Each service has certain advantages over the other that should be considered.

While both companies report on the accident history of the car, AutoCheck seems to do a better job at reporting on accidents. The company has a more comprehensive relationship with car auction markets, giving them more information about cars sold at auction.

Carfax and AutoCheck are equally competent when reporting the car’s history on emissions. Consumers should look at the mileage on the car itself and compare it with the emissions report. A mismatch could spell trouble.

When it comes to readability, AutoCheck is the clear winner. The report offers a score for the car and compares that score with other vehicles of its kind. This gives the consumer a quick and easy comparison to decide if the car is worth the cost of the independent mechanical inspection needed before making a purchase. Although Carfax provides more details on car history, these details are unlikely to change the outcome of a buyer’s decision. Because the information is not organized in a simple formant, Carfax reports make sense for auto industry professionals, such as dealers considering whether to buy a particular car at auction.

Just like with any major purchase, researching and inspecting the car is the best way to be certain that it is the right car for the buyer’s needs. Careful inspection of the car by a mechanic is the best way to find out everything that has happened to the car. As a result, using one’s own mechanic to assess the car is the wisest course of action before purchasing it.


AutoCheck – Where Accidents Get Reported.

Carfax – Show Me the Carfax.

Women’s Automotive Solutions – Car buying service dedicated to helping women. – Consumers’ #1 source of car buying information.

Busam Nissan – In business since 1909, Cincinnati’s oldest car dealership.

2 Comments add one

  1. Pingback:» CARFAX, CarMax, Autocheck: Is It A Good Deal? » Top.Seksas.Us

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