How to Read a CARFAX Vehicle History Report

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By |2019-07-10T17:12:45-04:00July 10, 2019 - 01:12AM|Inspecting a Vehicle|

Every Carfax Vehicle History Report offers a detailed snapshot of a car’s condition and value. Some 25 different factors are taken into account to cover a vehicle’s service, accident and ownership histories. Carfax then puts all those details into one simple, easy-to-understand format.

History-Based Value

The first thing you see on a typical Carfax Vehicle History Report captures the main advantages in a nutshell. That is the History-Based Value, which evaluates a car’s value based on many of the same factors listed later in the report. While other websites may give you a value determined only by mileage and a rough-guesstimate of a vehicle’s condition, Carfax goes deeper. The History-Based Value considers such details as service records, title concerns, open recalls, past accidents and the number of previous owners.

You can also see the History-Based Value for both sale and trade-in situations.

Vehicle Information

The next section of a Carfax Vehicle History Report lays out the basics. Highlights include a brief top-level description of the vehicle with information including its model year, make, model name, trim level, vehicle identification number (VIN), body style and powertrain.

The first part of the report delivers a similar in-depth view of the car’s past. Here you’ll learn how many owners a vehicle has had, whether it was used for private or commercial purposes, how many miles it’s been driven and whether or not it’s ever been in an accident. This is the section that raises potential red flags from deeper in the report.

The report may include dealership information in the top section and elsewhere. That may include verified reviews and ratings from customers with real-world dealership experience.

Ownership History

The Ownership History area is where the data becomes more granular. This part lists individual information showing when each specific owner bought the car, how long it was owned by each person, where it was owned and the estimated number of miles driven each year. The type of owner, personal or commercial, is indicated as well.

Title History

Next comes the Title History segment of the report, which again provides info on an owner-by-owner basis. This will let you know if a vehicle has had the kind of fire, flood or other damage that results in a title defect. Keep in mind that cars with salvage titles often can’t be retitled as roadworthy vehicles. Carfax also lets you know if the reported odometer reading is accurate in this section.

Additional History

This area of the report centers on accidents and their repercussions. From an airbag deployment to structural damage to a total loss, you’ll find out about reported issues here. You’ll discover if the vehicle is still under warranty, too, or if it’s subject to an open manufacturer recall.

Detailed History

The final section of the Carfax report is like seeing a vehicle’s timeline. It’s a chronological list of key events. That list may start with the first pre-delivery inspection at a new-car dealership. Subsequent sales, purchases, accidents and service visits can all follow. The Detailed History even tracks vehicle liens and emissions tests.

The specifics listed are of special importance.

Consider a vehicle with a reported accident. In this case, the Detailed History will include a Damage Severity Scale, which has two components. One is a visual scale that shows how bad the damage was, and the other is a graphic to indicate where on the vehicle the damage occurred.

With all these benefits, it’s hard to picture anyone buying a car without first getting a Carfax Vehicle History Report.

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About the Author:

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who got his start working on dealer publications with General Motors. He has covered nearly all aspects of the industry since then and continues to explore auto-related topics for Carfax today. Away from work, Charles enjoys reading, photography and spending time with his family. Charles owes his interest in cars to his father, whose daily drivers when Charles was growing up included a Lotus Elan, a Jensen-Healey and a pair of Toyota Celica Supras.