I’ve written about the unreliability of Carfax reports before, but this recent piece by colleague Dale Irwin out of Kansas City highlights the issue for consumers once again.  Irwin believes, and I agree, that Carfax does not protect you.  He estimates that nine times out of 10 a Carfax report will not reveal previous wreck or flood damage to a car.

Used car buyers relying on such “clean” Carfax reports shown by dealers are more likely to be cheated buying used cars. Dishonest dealers will actually use Carfax reports to make consumers believe that the cars have not been wrecked, though dealers frequently detect previous damage.

Why such incomplete information? Well, it comes to light that Carfax simply doesn’t get damage claim information from insurance companies or from rental and lease car fleets. Instead, it gets information from government sources that is often stale by the time it is reported. 

Irwin’s advice to consumers cannot be understated or repeated frequently enough: if you’re buying a used car, have it inspected before the purchase by a qualified body technician. Do not rely on Carfax (or Autocheck or similar databases) to protect you.