The first thing many consumers say when interested in purchasing a vehicle is "Show me the CarFax." CarFax has certainly built quite a brand with many consumers insisting upon reviewing the CarFax report before purchasing a vehicle, but both consumers and dealers should not entirely rely upon the reports. CarFax likely intends to provide accurate information for the consumer and dealer, but unfortunately that does not always occur.

Consumers and dealers, who are actually the largest consumers of vehicles, should be mindful that while CarFax reports may be a useful starting point to determine a vehicle’s history, the most effective means of determining a vehicle’s history and condition is a thorough physical inspection performed by skilled professionals. Dealers are of course well aware of the need to perform a thorough physical inspection, but often consumers rely too heavily on CarFax reports, and are not mindful of the reports potential pitfalls.

A common issue with the reports is that they are not current, and the information included on the report often lags behind by several months. A clean CarFax does not necessarily mean that the vehicle was not involved in an accident. Unfortunately, a clean CarFax report at the time of purchase can result in an accident report being included when the vehicle is later traded or retailed. The consumer and dealer should require that the vehicle be properly inspected by a licensed professional to determine the condition of the vehicle.

Another common issue with CarFax reports are that they may be misleading, and not include sufficient information for the consumer and dealer. For instance, a CarFax report may include "Accident reported, Vehicle involved in crash with another vehicle." The obvious question for a consumer or dealer interested in purchasing the vehicle is to determine the nature and extent of the damage. Was the vehicle involved in a high speed collision incurring significant damage, or was the vehicle bumped in a parking lot?

The general point is that CarFax reports may at times be misleading to consumers who should rely upon their reputable dealer and team of professionals to provide a comprehensive report as to the vehicles history and condition. CarFax reports provide a false sense of security to the general public as to the condition of a vehicle, and there is no replacing a thorough inspection.