Do you ever worry that a used car you're thinking about purchasing might have a hidden past? Does it look too good to be true? Does the purchase price seem too low for the model year and the number of miles on the odometer? Two companies, Carfax and AutoCheck, offer potential buyers detailed reports on used cars. All you need is the vehicle identification number.
Private sellers of used cars have been known to lie to prospective buyers about the background of a vehicle. This could include how they obtained the car, who owned it previously and whether the car has suffered any accidents, flood damage or other problems. Deception may be less common at dealerships, but it still can happen. Carfax and AutoCheck help keep buyers informed--and sellers honest--by providing detailed vehicle history reports.
Owned by Experian, one of the top credit-reporting agencies, AutoCheck has a database that includes more than 500 million vehicles. Carfax was founded in the early 1980s and has a database that includes more than 6 billion vehicle records from the United States and Canada.
Reports from AutoCheck include a title check, problem check, odometer check and event check. The report lets purchasers know whether a car has been involved in an accident, theft or fire, and if it has an odometer that has been rolled back. AutoCheck also includes information about whether a car was a fleet vehicle. Carfax reports include the same basic features as AutoCheck reports, plus some other information. Carfax includes the number of owners, airbag deployments, emissions-testing records and service records.
Many used-car dealers offer a free vehicle history report when requested by the prospective buyer. Dealerships get a lower price when they purchase multiple history reports. Individuals can buy reports, too. Carfax prices increase depending on the number of reports purchased. One Carfax report costs $34.99. Five reports costs $44.99, as of 2010. AutoCheck reports are sold individually and in bulk. A single AutoCheck report costs $29.99. For $49.99, you can buy an unlimited number of reports over a 30-day period.
AutoCheck and Carfax both offer a program to buy back a car if the report misses key information. Customers who use AutoCheck and later find unreported damage to the car may qualify for the program. To qualify, the report must have been purchased after June 2005 and must state that there were no major problems with the vehicle. Carfax offers a similar program, which will buy back the vehicle if the report fails to note total loss accidents, mileage problems, a lemon history or fire or flood damage.
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