When Carfax Gets It Wrong

Reports sometimes list non-existent damage

Consumers rate Carfax

When consumers buy used cars – which often cost more than new cars did a few years ago – they want some assurance that the car they are buying doesn't have major, hidden damage. For that reason, services like Carfax are becoming gospel.

Carfax issues a report on every vehicle, collecting data from a variety of sources. If the vehicle has been the subject of an insurance claim or police report, the details are supposed to be listed in the Carfax report.

A ConsumerAffairs sentiment analysis of about 140,000 social media postings finds Carfax with a consistently positive perception, fluctuating from the 40%-85% range over the last year.

Some consumers have complained that they purchased a vehicle with a clean report, only to find that the car had suffered major damage that was not included in the report. That's understandable if there was no insurance claim or police accident report.

But at the same time, a few car owners, like Mario, of Houston, Tex., have complained that the Carfax report on their vehicle has incorrect information.

“We went to trade in my wife's Lexus IS250 and the dealer tells us that the Carfax report shows that our car had been a in a severe accident, therefore the value of the car is much less,” Mario wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “The report did not have a date, just stated that the accident occurred in 2010 and was not reported. Our car has never been in an accident. I contacted Carfax and their answer was that the information came from a police crash report and provided a case number. Well, I checked the crash report number and it doesn't exist!”

Mistakes happen

A Carfax report has been likened to a credit report for vehicles. The information comes from a variety of sources and sometimes, just as with credit reports, erroneous information gets into the record.

Mario's only recourse is to appeal to Carfax to reevaluate its report on his wife's Lexus. The stakes are particularly high since the Lexus is an expensive car. No dealer is likely to touch it if there is a Carfax report that shows major damage.

Mario can probably successfully appeal this report but it will require some effort on his part. He will need something in writing from the police department referenced in the Carfax report that the case number cited in the report does not exist.

He will then need to contact Carfax again, asking how to go about reversing information and explaining that he possesses documentary evidence to support his case. Mario can start the appeals process.

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