What is CARFAX? Where does carfax get its information?

What is CARFAX? A CARFAX report is a comprehensive vehicle history that helps to ensure you’re purchasing a car or truck that doesn’t have any preexisting problems or issues.

What is CARFAX?

A CARFAX report is a complete report of all publicly available information about a vehicle. The data includes history about owners, maintenance, accidents, and many other events affecting the vehicle’s value and operability. These reports are used to help inform car-buyers about the vehicles they are looking at.

What is CARFAX

For instance, if you’re looking at a used car, it’s very likely that CARFAX already has the data associated with the vehicle identification number because it had previous owners.

The information about that car was gathered from multiple sources and combined into a formatted report. You buy the report from CARFAX’s website, and can view the entire reported history of that vehicle.

How Does Carfax Actually Work?

CARFAX gathers information from many different sources. The service works as an information or data aggregator, collecting data from multiple sources and combining them into a database. You can make database queries regarding specific vehicles and their information through CARFAX’s web interface.

CARFAX gets information from more than 131,000 state vehicle bureaus, automotive auctions, insurance companies, vehicle repair and service businesses, rental agencies, inspection agencies, and much more throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Where Does All That Data Come From?

Carfax must have an army of data crawlers trolling the internet because the company culls data from about 92,000 sources—everything from motor vehicle agencies, to many police and fire departments, collision repair facilities, and auto auctions.

Here’s their list of all of the sources:

  • Fire departments
  • Manufacturers
  • Law enforcement agencies U.S. motor vehicle agencies
  • Canadian provincial motor vehicle agencies
  • Auto auctions and salvage auctions
  • Collision repair facilities
  • Service/maintenance facilities
  • Insurance companies
  • Automotive recyclers
  • Rental/fleet vehicle companies
  • State inspection stations
  • Extended warranty companies
  • Car dealerships Import/export companies

What Does a Carfax Report Tell You?

A Carfax report provides a vast amount of information in one place. The key to unlocking the Carfax report’s power is knowing the vehicle identification number, or VIN. Once you input this number on the Carfax website, you can expect a full vehicle history report within seconds.

What is CARFAX

A Carfax report shows the following:

  • The accident history of the vehicle or whether it’s had damage from other sources (fire, hail, flood, etc.), including insurance claims on the vehicle
  • Incomplete safety recalls
  • Where the vehicle has been registered and inspected
  • If the vehicle has undergone routine, periodic, or scheduled maintenance (its service history)
  • A close estimate of what the odometer should read (the actual reading should always be more than the amount listed on the Carfax report)
  • The number of previous owners
  • An optional lien check, but not necessarily information on a lien release
  • When and where has the vehicle been sold
  • Title history, including whether it’s a salvage title and where the vehicle has been titled in the past
  • Detailed U.S. history
  • Import records
  • Airbag deployment
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Car buyers should remember that a new car will not have a Carfax report. This is because the car has no vehicle history nor has it been registered in any province. Therefore, you can cross the report off your list if you purchase a new car.

Where Does Carfax Get Its Information?

The key to Carfax’s unbeatable reputation lies in its sources. The company uses over 100,000 sources to provide an exhaustive list of a car’s history. This includes information from:

  • Police departments and law enforcement agencies (for theft or accidents)
  • Insurance companies
  • Car auctions
  • Car dealerships
  • Rental companies
  • Service and repair businesses
  • Provincial inspection stations
  • Automakers

By obtaining such a breadth of information, Carfax maintains that its reports are the most accurate in the industry, even over rivals such as VINAudit and AutoCheck.

What Is on a CARFAX Report?

A CARFAX report includes several important areas of information. The title information section is considered the most reliable because the data is on record with the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state in which it is registered.

What is CARFAX

A CARFAX report can list approximate retail or trade-in value and then lists the:

  • Ownership history
  • Title history
  • Additional history
  • Detailed history

Ownership History

The ownership history section describes how many owners the vehicle has had, the years the vehicle was purchased, length of ownership, where it was registered, and the last reported odometer reading.

Title History

The title history describes any issues that are found regarding the title. Car titles are marked for specific types of damages to alert potential owners to possible problems. The title history shows if the vehicle title has been marked as:

  • Salvage: Whether the vehicle is a salvaged vehicle, not roadworthy, or the repair costs exceed 75% of its pre-damage value. Generally, it cannot be titled in the issuing state again.
  • Junk: Similar to a salvage title
  • Rebuilt: A salvage or junk vehicle that has been rebuilt
  • Fire: Vehicle damage caused by a fire that exceeds its fair market value
  • Flood: The vehicle was severely damaged by water
  • Hail: Hail damage to the vehicle exceeded its fair market value that exceeds its fair market value
  • Lemon: Used when the vehicle manufacturer buys back the vehicle because there are too many issues
  • Not actual mileage: The vehicle seller certifies the mileage on the title when selling the vehicle. This is used when the seller cannot verify or certify the exact mileage.
  • Mileage mechanical limit exceeded: Some odometers cannot roll past 99,999 miles. This indicates the odometer has exceeded its ability to track mileage.

Additional History

In the additional history section of the report, you’ll find issues reported by the owner or insurance company about:

  • A declaration of total loss
  • Any structural damages
  • An airbag deployment
  • An odometer check
  • Any accidents and other damages
  • Recalls from the manufacturer
  • The original warranty information

Detailed History

The detailed history section details any reports, services, sales, inspections, or other events. For example, you might find emissions inspections, registration renewals, accidents listed by owner, and where any events occurred.

Limitations of CARFAX Reports

A “clean” report means CARFAX hasn’t found any significant issues. However, it may not be as simple as a big green “CLEAN” stamp at the top of the report. CARFAX may not be able to access some information, or previous owners and dealers might find ways to keep events unlisted.

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There might also be mechanical issues with the vehicle that are not on the report because they were not fixed or reported. It’s not unheard of for someone to sell a vehicle in need of costly repairs to a dealer, who in turn only fixes what is necessary to resell the car without reporting it.

CARFAX relies on accident reports from police departments for its data. As a result, the report will likely be very accurate if you’re buying a vehicle that’s only been driven in a major metropolitan area. But some accidents might not have been reported if you’re buying in a small town where neighbors agree to pay for damages and take it to a friend for repairs.

Some accidents are not reported if the vehicle was taken to a body shop without involving the police. Auto shops tend to report what they fixed, not what happened—so you may only see maintenance or repairs.

This might indicate that the vehicle has been in an unreported fender-bender if you notice that a bumper has been replaced, but there’s no corresponding information on the CARFAX report.

How Much Does Carfax Cost?

Carfax has a three-tiered pricing model. If you’re going to test drive more than one car, and you probably will, you might want to get the second option, which provides five reports.

  • MyCarfax: A free app that provides info on maintenance and recalls for vehicles, as well as estimate repair costs and help finding local repair services. Doesn’t include Vehicle History Reports.
  • 1 Carfax Report: $39.99
  • 5 Reports:  $59.99 (valid for 60 days)
  • Unlimited Reports for 60 days: $69.99 gets you unlimited by searching by license plate
  • Shift: Free. Zip. Zilch.

What Should You Do After You Check the CarFax Report?

After you look over the report, you might have more questions about the vehicle. Talking to a private seller or dealer can provide more information about the vehicle. If the report brings up any questions, you can call the seller on the phone to discuss these issues.

What is CARFAX

Additionally, you can also test drive the car and bring it to a mechanic to make sure that the vehicle is still in good condition. A private seller or dealer should have no problem with allowing for an independent evaluation of the car. An inspection of the car is still just as important, even if you do receive a thorough vehicle history report.

Are CarFax Reports Worth the Cost?

CarFax vehicle history reports do not include every bit of information about a car. Something could be missing from a report, which means that you could miss out on important information that would have otherwise stopped you from buying a car.

In some cases, CarFax will give you an offer on a used car that you purchased because of missing information. There are no guarantees, but it may be an option if you find yourself stuck with a car you’re unhappy with.

In some cases, a CarFax report is worth the cost. While some people don’t like the idea of buying a vehicle history report, the information you find could prevent you from buying a car that you definitely don’t want. In fact, you might consider CarFax and other reporting options as a way to rule out vehicles in your search.

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What Are Some Carfax Alternatives?

Carfax isn’t the only automotive history player in Canada. Let’s look at a few alternative options for getting the inside scoop on a vehicle before buying it.


AutoCheck is owned by the credit reporting company Experian, and is backed by a massive organization that ensures it is a high-quality service. It offers several report options, including a vehicle history report for $24.99. If you need multiple reports, you can get a five-report package for 21 days for $49.99.

AutoCheck gives you much of the same information as Carfax, including its ownership history, if it was ever auctioned or a taxi, open recalls, insurance losses and accidents, odometer history, service and repair history, and more. Two things it offers that CArfax does not are auction data and its patented AutoCheck Score.

The AutoCheck Score looks at the vehicle’s history and helps you predict its reliability in the future. To determine this score, the AutoCheck report looks at:

  • Accidents
  • Mileage
  • Title brands such as salvaged or rebuilt title
  • Odometer discrepencies
  • Frame or water damage
  • If the vehicle has been branded as a lemon
  • If the vehicle has ever been stolen or repossessed
  • If the vehicle has ever been used as a police or taxi vehicle

VINAudit Canada

VINAudit is another Carfax alternative in Canada that offers a robust report on a vehicle. Its report includes a check for salvage or rebuilt brands, a record of registrations, odometer history, stolen vehicle reports, recalls and buybacks, VIN cloning, and U.S. history too.

The downsides to VINAudit are, unlike Carfax, it only offers accident records for select provinces, while Carfax offers nationwide reporting. It also lacks Canadian lien checks and service records.

VINAudit shines in pricing, though, ringing in at just $14.95 for a single vehicle history report, $34.95 for five reports, and $44.95 for 10 reports.

Are Free VIN Checks Good Alternatives to a Carfax Report?

Canada offers a range of free VIN check options to car buyers that some buyers may see as alternatives to getting a full Carfax vehicle history report. One leading organization offering this service is the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

The IBC VIN Verify service allows you to see if a vehicle has been flooded by searching if a vehicle has been branded (salvage or rebuilt) due to water damage.

Carfax also offers a free VIN decoder. This service will decode the VIN and show you all the key information about the vehicle, including its:

  • Manufacturer
  • Country of manufacture
  • Type or division
  • Brand, body style, engine size and type, model series, and more
  • Model year
  • Assembly plant
  • Production number

While this gives you no information on the vehicle’s history, it can help you ensure the vehicle matches the description the seller is giving.

While these free VIN checks are helpful, they don’t paint a detailed enough picture to be true alternatives to a full Carfax vehicle history report.


What does a CARFAX tell you?

A CARFAX report can tell you how many people have owned the car, where the car was used, and how long each owner held the car. Vehicle import/export companies and North American motor vehicle agencies provide ownership information.

Is CARFAX worth using?

The Carfax report is the benchmark for all other vehicle history reports. If a vehicle has had multiple owners, it is clearly labeled and organized in different sections. Carfax also has more detailed maintenance records. This information can serve as a guide to what issues the vehicle might have had.

Does CARFAX tell you what kind of accident?

If an accident has been reported, Carfax’s Vehicle History Reports can tell you where the damage was on the car and, in many cases, the severity of the damage.

Above is information about What is CARFAX? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of How does carfax actually work? Thank you for reading our post.

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