A Vehicle History Report is Not a Pre-purchase Inspection

A history report cannot tell you the current condition of ANY component or system. Therefore, you cannot determine the value of the vehicle without a professional pre-purchase inspection.

ABC News Report:
    "Carfax, instead of protecting people, makes it more likely that they will be defrauded."

    "Inaccurate History Reports cost buyers."

Lehto's Law Podcast:
    "The Problems with Carfax."

12 Limitations and Problems with Vehicle History Reports:

     1) Not all totaled vehicles end up with negative "reconditioned or salvage" titles.  State Farm Insurance was sued by the federal government for not reporting 32,000 to 40,000 vehicles, that were totaled, to the State's DMV. Since the titles were never changed, these totaled vehicles were re-sold to the public with the original "clean" title and a "clean" history report. State Farm paid $40 million in fines. Despite paying a fine, automotive experts estimate State Farm made between $60 to $80 million by not reporting these vehicles to the DMV. This is an easy way to achieve high-profit margins, and this is not an isolated incident.

Vehicle history companies fail to inform their customers that some States do not report negative comments on their vehicle titles. These titles will not show past problems such as "salvage, rebuilt, true miles unknown, theft recovery, etc..." Vehicle History Companies' buyback guarantee is not enforceable for vehicle titles that never were changed or designated to "totaled".

      2) There is no centralized database for accident reports or accident repairs. Not all insurance companies disclose or share accident information to vehicle history companies. There are thousands of accidents each day that will never show up on their reports. Even if the report shows an accident, it cannot inform the buyer of the extent of the accident damage or the quality of the repairs.

     3) There is no centralized database for automotive repairs. Vehicle history companies have little access to automotive repair information. Each day, thousands of repairs are performed by franchise repair facilities, independent repair facilities, used car dealers, auction reconditioning, wholesalers, shade tree mechanics, and the millions of do-it-yourselfers. If a history report reports a repair, it cannot determine if the problem was fixed correctly or additional mechanical/electrical problems with the vehicle.

     4) Vehicle history companies do not verify their information.  Vehicle History Companies do not verify the information provided by there sources. The vehicle identification number (VIN) is comprised of 17 letters and digits. It is easy to input an incorrect VIN or current mileage or other identifying information. These mistakes will cause a Vehicle History Company's report to wrongly show erroneous problems such as "mileage discrepancies, airbag deployment, accident damage, salvage title, etc...." Any database manager will tell you, "garbage in, garbage out."

     5) Used car dealers know the limitations of a vehicle history report. Some dealers knowingly buy vehicles with frame and accident damages but no information on the history report. They sell these damaged vehicles to unsuspecting buyers by showing a history report with "no structural damage reported" and "no accidents or damage reported."

     6) Vehicle history report can't tell you who owns the vehicle. History reports give the registration state. You must contact the DMV to determine who owns the vehicle.

     7) A State's annual safety and/or emission tests are not pre-purchase inspections. A history report might show that a vehicle passed a States' yearly safety or emission test. However, these annual safety or emissions tests do not cover most mechanical and electrical systems. Previous safety or emission tests cannot tell the buyer the current condition of any component or system.

     8) A "history" report, not a "current" report. There is a time lag from when an incident occurs and when (or if) it gets into a history report. This time lag can be significant and allow a damaged vehicle to be re-sold before the negative information is included in a history report.

     9) History reports are expensive for the small amount of helpful information. A history report can't be 100% accurate if the vehicle was ever in an accident, if the vehicle was abused or well maintained, and the existing condition of ANY mechanical or electrical system.

     10) Vehicle History Companies are not consumer-friendly. There are many consumer sites full of complaints and problems with vehicle history companies. If you have a complaint or see a mistake in a report, in most cases you must contact them via email and wait for a response. If you find a mistake on a your vehicle's history report, the Vehicle History Company normally will not perform an investigation. These companies require the consumer to get documentation refuting the information in their database. Obtaining proof is usually tedious and time-consuming. Some errors are impossible to dispute, especially if the reported information is erroneous. Even if you have an error corrected by one company, you must contact the other companies to correct  their databases.

     11) Vehicle History Companies hide behind their disclaimer and wording. Many customers have purchased used vehicles with a "clean" history report to discover existing problems, previous accident damage, and totaled vehicles resulting in a financial loss. When confronted, these companies just reiterate their disclaimers.

     12)  Perception is the reality to the used car buyer. The perception created by history reporting companies, and hyped by used car dealers, lead consumers to believe that if the report is “clean,” they eliminated the risks when purchasing a used vehicle.

A history report is like any tool, and there is a limit to what each tool can accomplish. No history report can determine the current condition of a used vehicle.

You cannot negotiate your best deal unless you know the exact condition of the vehicle. The ONLY way to determine the current state of all the mechanical, electrical, body & frame is to have them professionally inspected by an ASE Certified Master Technician for all the mechanical and electrical systems and Body & Frame Specialist for accident damage.