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CARFAX saved me from a costly mistake

I was going to buy a low milage Expedition in excellant condition. I ran a CARFAX which showed the car was last smogged with over 200,000 miles on it and not the 52,000 shown on [the] title or odometer.
I tracked down and called the previous owner who verified that the car was in excellant shape but did have well over 200,000 miles when it was traded in.

CARFAX info saved me from a very costly mistake.

Thank You,

Taking a Test Dive

Before You Drive:
Start by adjusting the steering wheel, mirrors and seats for optimum visibility and comfort. Sometimes the seller will roll the windows down, turn on the radio and start talking immediately when you start the car. It may be because they’re trying to cover up a noise or hidden car problems they don’t want you to know about. Make sure you roll up the windows, turn off the radio and ask for silence to help you focus on the car itself.

While Driving:
Drive the exact model you’re interested in – down to the trim. Ask the seller if you can take your own route for the test drive. Make sure the route you take is similar to your daily routine. Take it on the highway and side streets so you are able to get a feel for all driving conditions. Before, during and after your test drive, ask yourself “Can I imagine myself driving this car everyday”? If you have doubts, then you may want to continue your car buying search.

Pay Attention To:
Let’s not forget why you’re taking the car for a spin – you want to see how it drives! Pay attention to the ride quality, handling and engine power. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable and if you have any difficulties driving it. Listen to the noises the car makes. Do they sound normal? Test the brakes to see if they work properly. When going to park the car, see how it maneuvers and how easily the car fits into a parking space. Get the vehicle identification number (VIN) or license plate (if it’s a private seller) and run a Carfax Vehicle History Report to help discover hidden car problems.

*A test drive is one of three steps that Carfax recommends before buying a used car. Make sure you get a mechanic’s inspection and a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to help ensure a great buy.

CARFAX saved me from making a costly mistake

My wife and I purchased a 5 vehicle CARFAX package when we decided to get her a new car. I’m sure glad we did, the dealers choices were mostly northern cars with lots of rust and some accidents. We finally found the perfect car with a clean history and purchased it from a private seller.

Thank you CARFAX for saving me from making a costly mistake.

-M. Griffin

What’s a Salvage Title?

What's a Salvage Title?

Millions of vehicles are issued salvage titles in the United States every year. Many of these cars are repaired and sold, sometimes by sellers who fail to report, or try to hide the salvage title. CARFAX can help consumers protect themselves from unknowingly buying a salvage vehicle.


Salvage Cars


A salvage vehicle is any vehicle that has been issued a salvage title by a state motor vehicle agency. A salvage title may indicate that a vehicle is not road worthy after being damaged in an accident, flood, fire, or other event. In many states, a salvage title is issued when a vehicle is damaged to the extent that the cost of repairing the vehicle exceeds 75% of its pre-damage value, though the damage threshold may vary by state.


Sometimes, but not always, vehicles that have been declared total losses by an insurance company are also issued salvage titles. Insurance companies often have different criteria than motor vehicle agencies for determining if a vehicle is totaled.

A salvage title does not always indicate that a vehicle was wrecked. In some states a salvage title may indicate that a vehicle was stolen. These states include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Oregon.

Some states do not require salvage titles for older vehicles. For example, a state may assign a salvage title to an older-model vehicle only by request from the vehicle owner.

Salvage Title Fraud

A seller should disclose if a vehicle has a salvage title. In some states disclosure is required by law. Unfortunately, salvage titles are not always revealed. Every year, thousands of salvage cars are sold to unsuspecting buyers, and in the process, returned to the roads without proper repair.

A common scam associated with salvaged vehicles is title washing. In title washing, a seller moves a vehicle to a state that has looser title laws and then registers the vehicle in that state. Depending on that state’s title laws, the state may not indicate that the vehicle ever had a salvage title. In a title-washing scam, the seller may register the vehicle in multiple states until the salvage brand is removed from the title.

Car clipping is another problem associated with salvaged vehicles. In car clipping, two wrecked vehicles are literally sawed apart, and the ends of the separate vehicles are welded together. For example, the front end of one salvage vehicle may be welded on to the back end of another vehicle. Clipped vehicles can be difficult for the average used car shopper to detect.

Rebuilt Salvage Titles

Salvage vehicles that are properly repaired or restored can be returned to the road legally and safely. Many states require that a vehicle pass an inspection to determine if the vehicle is roadworthy. Vehicles that pass this inspection are sometimes issued rebuilt titles or the title may still say salvage. The inspection process may differ from state to state. Some states require that the owner provide receipts for component parts that were used in the repair process.

Buying a salvage vehicle might not be a bad investment, although it’s recommend that before you buy a salvage car you understand the prior damage that resulted in the salvage title being issued. If you are considering buying a car with a rebuilt salvage title, we recommend that you make sure repairs were made by a licensed mechanic.

Protect Yourself from Salvage Title Fraud

To determine if a vehicle that you are considering buying has a salvage title, ask the seller to show you the title document. Look for wording on the title that indicates a salvage title. The wording can vary from state to state. If the words totaled, reconditioned, salvaged, junked, rebuilt, or warranty returned appear on the title, then it is a salvage vehicle. In some states, salvage titles are printed on different color paper than non-branded titles.

If the title does not indicate salvage, examine the title document to see if it has been physically altered. If the title looks like it has been altered in any way, beware.

We also recommend that you order a CARFAX® Vehicle History Report™. CARFAX receives vehicle history information from every U.S. and Canadian provincial motor vehicle agency and guarantees to indicate if a vehicle has a reported salvage title. A CARFAX Report may also indicate if a vehicle has been declared a total loss by an insurance company, even if a salvage title was not issued by a state motor vehicle agency.

In addition to getting the CARFAX Report before you buy a car, we always recommend that you take a test drive and have the car inspected by a qualified mechanic.

For information on salvage titles laws in your state, contact your local DMV.

Curbstoning: How to Protect Yourself

Curbstoning: How to Protect Yourself

Curbstoning is selling a car that doesn’t belong to you, or a private party who buys and sells cars like a dealer, but without a license. This practice is illegal and goes around many of the safeguards that are in place to protect used car buyers.

Many cars are bought from private sellers each year. Only a fraction of these are curbstoners, but the victims of curbstoning often end up making expensive repairs to a vehicle because they were led to believe that it had fewer miles, or major issues were not disclosed or were hidden by cosmetic work.

When you buy a car from a private seller, here are some ways to protect yourself from curbstoners:

  • Ask to see the driver’s license of the seller along with the car’s title and/or registration. If the name on the title doesn’t match the name on the license, don’t buy it.
  • Get a detailed CARFAX Vehicle History Report to identify if the car has any reported salvage history, odometer fraud or flood damage. It can also show recent, frequent or excessive title transfers that may contradict the seller’s story.
  • Take the car to a trusted mechanic. A professional inspection can uncover weld marks, water spots and uneven tire treads – all clues to a potentially unsafe vehicle.
  • Check the phone number. Make sure the same phone number appears in multiple ads, and that you have a way to get back in touch with the car seller, not just a cell phone number. Curbstoners often try to change their locations to avoid being caught.
  • Be skeptical if the price seems too good to be true. If something feels wrong, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Herta Soman learned about curbstoning the hard way when she fell for a curbstoner’s story and wound up paying $15,000 for a ’97 Honda only to find out the warranties were void. The vehicle had been totaled nearly three  years earlier.

“I was angry. I was in shock,” said Soman after discovering through CARFAX that the car she purchased from a private seller had once been salvaged. “I was speechless. I feel like I’m driving a fraud.”

Sadly, Soman is not alone. Law enforcement officials estimate that many of the cars advertised in classified ads or sold at the curb may be curbstoned vehicles. Curbstoners often sell vehicles reputable dealers won’t touch because of hidden problems, such as salvage titles, that can affect both safety and value.

“Unfortunately, dishonesty sometimes is very profitable,” laments John Creel, a Consumer Investigator. Creel has been busting curbstoners for years. He explains how this scam works. Curbstoners pick up bad cars, “cars that may have spun odometers or salvage [titles]” for example, from junkyards or wholesale auctions, then pass them off to unsuspecting consumers as quality family cars. By law, a dealer must disclose if a vehicle has a salvage title, or a known inaccurate odometer reading.

“You don’t tell him you got it a week ago… you cleaned it up and now you’re selling it,” reveals a former curbstoner caught by Creel who requested anonymity. “It’s possible even to hide the fact that a car has been totaled by registering it or changing the title in another state,” he adds.

Consumer safety advocates say you can’t be too careful when buying a used car today since poorly rebuilt wrecks are more likely to fail in the event of another crash. It is especially dangerous when the driver has no idea the vehicle has been in a major accident before.

“Your chances of being in a serious auto crash in your lifetime are 1 out of 2,” says Jackie Gillan of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Those are very high odds, so you want to make sure when you’re buying a used car that it’s not only going to provide the transportation you need, but is also going to provide you and your family with a safe driving environment.”

Creel always recommends that consumers do their homework before buying any pre-owned vehicle, especially from a private seller. “The first thing you want to do is get a CARFAX Report,” he says.

Herta Soman, who, because of a curbstoner, got stuck with a now failing rebuilt wreck echoes Creel’s sentiment. “I wish I would have done that prior to purchasing my car, it could have saved me a lot of grief, and a lot of money.”