Carfax Caution: Vehicle History Report May Not Tell the Whole Story

A Vernon woman spent $20,000 a pre-owned 2013 Ford Edge SUV that she believed had a clean accident record. But years after she purchased it in 2016, she learned that wasn’t the case.

“I test drove the car, it seemed fine,” said Christine, who asked that her last name not be used, said. “It had a clean Carfax.”

When she tried trading in her vehicle in October the dealer pulled the Carfax report. She then discovered it was involved in two accidents before she ever owned it.

“I have no idea where anything happened or who fixed it," she told NBC Connecticut Responds.

The Carfax report showed rear end damage to the vehicle in 2013 that wasn’t reported until 2018, five years after the accident and two years after Christine purchased the SUV.

In 2015, there was front end damage on the passenger side. That wasn’t reported until 2017.

“I don’t know if something’s going to happen. What’s going to happen? I was really irritated,” she said.

Christine is not alone. NBC Connecticut Responds searched through the Consumer Investigative database and found seven Carfax complaints in Connecticut and dozens nationwide over delayed reporting to what some viewers called inaccurate information.

Emilie Voss of Carfax admitted the report consumers received may not have every accident on record. Carfax discloses this to its customers.

“While we do have over 112,000 sources that feed our vehicle history report in over 23 billion records, we don’t have all the data available on every single car,” said Voss, the company’s director of public relations.

Voss said its vehicle database consists of records from insurance companies, law enforcement, service shops, auction sites and other sources.

“So, if it is significantly after the period of maybe an accident happened, you can see when we added to the Carfax report,” said Voss.

What happened when Carfax received complaints of inaccurate information?

“It really truly is case by case,” said Voss. According to Voss, Carfax always recommend buyers start with a Carfax report but also do a thorough test drive and obtain an independent vehicle inspection prior to purchasing a used vehicle.

With what we learned, we called on mechanic Bob Collins to inspect and evaluate Christine’s vehicle.

“There are a couple of tale-tale signs that you can spot, just by walking around the car,” said Collins.

Collins pointed out paint peeling on the bumper, measured the paint’s thickness, checked to see if the body panels and doors lined up and if the bumper covers fit together.

“Whether or not, a car fax showed a vehicle was in an accident, a properly trained technician doing these inspections should be able to tell that on his own,” said Collins.

The dealership told NBC Connecticut Responds that as a goodwill gesture they offered Christine a check for the trade-in value of her SUV as if it had a clean Carfax report.

Carfax does have a buyback guarantee if the report fails to include that it was a salvage vehicle, has water, hail or flood damage and odometer problems.

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