How to Read Accident Information on a CARFAX Vehicle History Report

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By |2020-01-14T18:04:34-05:00January 15, 2020 - 06:00AM|Inspecting a Vehicle|

Understanding the severity of a crash is crucial to making a good purchase decision

When it comes to information about whether a car’s been in an accident – and how severe that crash was – no other vehicle history company has more information than Carfax. Shoppers can use that information to determine whether or not to take a chance on a used vehicle with a known accident.

Shoppers can get a good deal on a used model with an accident if they are aware of what was damaged and how severe that damage was. Carfax’s Vehicle History Report provides a great way to visualize that information.

How Bad Is the Damage?

The amount of information available often depends on when the accident happened, and where. Different states report varying amounts of information after a crash, and older crashes often have less information available.

Carfax Report Accident Severity Graphic

Where’s the Damage? On a Carfax Vehicle History Report, shoppers can often see an overhead diagram of the vehicle, with shading to indicate where the damage occurred. In some cases, the report includes information on the severity of the crash (see graphic above). The diagram identifies where the impact was.

Carfax Report Accident Severity Graphic

More Details: When the information is available, Carfax will tell you if the car’s airbags deployed and whether the car was still driveable. Some states even require disclosure if the damage exceeds a certain dollar level.

Damage Without an Accident: Not all damage is from an accident. It could include damage of all severities. The damage could be from incidents such as backing into a pole, having a tree limb fall on the car, or other events. When considering a damage report, it’s important to remember that minor damage may be only cosmetic; it may be noted that way in the Carfax report.

What Shoppers Should Do

If you’re thinking about buying a used car, of course you should check out the Carfax Vehicle History Report. Beyond that, ask the seller about any damage to see how their response lines up with the information you’ve already got. Ask for documentation on the repairs and find out if there’s any warranty protection for the work done. Don’t hesitate to use the damage as a bargaining chip in your negotiations over price.

Before you agree to buy a car, make sure a mechanic you trust goes over it, not only to check that damage was repaired correctly, but to ensure that there’s not some mechanical issue that could cost you money. These kinds of inspections usually cost around $100, but what they find is often well worth the cost.

Other Items on the VHR

The Carfax Vehicle History Report can reveal many other details about the car you’re considering, including:

  • Title information, such as salvaged or junked titles
  • Flood damage
  • If the car was ever labeled a total loss
  • Odometer readings
  • Lemon history
  • Number of owners
  • State emissions inspections
  • Maintenance work

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About the Author:

Even before I became an automotive journalist, I’d been a car guy. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, where you drive everywhere, even if it’s just next door. That has led to a lifetime of keeping up with models, trends and technological advances. I’m the Executive Editor at Carfax; before that I worked at Consumer Reports, and before that I had a long stint as Editor-in-Chief at Before turning to automotive, I spent two decades in newspapers, including 11 years at the Chicago Tribune. I’m married with three grown children and live in Northern Virginia.