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How to Read a CARFAX Report

What is a CARFAX report?

A CARFAX report is a complete vehicle history of a used vehicle. The report is built from all publicly available information on the car, including state vehicle bureaus, insurance companies, automotive auctions, vehicle repair companies, and more. Hundreds of thousands of companies report to CARFAX on their dealings with used cars, and CARFAX has over 26 billion records on vehicles.

CARFAX reports are very handy when youíre looking to buy a used car. Before handing over money to the seller, running a CARFAX report might show you details about the car that the seller has tried to hide.


What does a CARFAX report include?

Youíll find several sections in a CARFAX report, each based on information the company has received.

Vehicle Overview

This section includes a basic overview of the car, such as its make, model, year, trim level, body style, and vehicle identification number (VIN). It will also mention whether the car has had any damage reported in the past, whether itís been used for commercial purposes, whether itís been used by a rental company, and how many miles are on the clock.

been used by a rental company, and how many miles are on the clock.The Vehicle Overview is a good place to check for potential red flags, such as accident damage the owner never told you about.

Title History

This section lists all the previous owners of the vehicle and whether itís had any damage which could result in a title defect.

Ownership History

Following on from the Title History, the Ownership History adds more detail on each of the owners of the vehicle, how long they owned the car, how many miles they each drove, and whether the vehicle was used for commercial purposes during that time.

Additional History

Most of this section is dedicated to accidents and damage, such as whether the vehicle has ever had structural loss or if the airbags have been deployed.

Detailed History

The Detailed History attempts to put together a complete timeline of the vehicleís life, from its original manufacture and pre-delivery inspection to its times at dealerships. Youíll see whether the car was bought with a loan or purchased with cash, and even whether the car failed emission or safety tests in the past.

History-Based Value

CARFAX attempts to evaluate the value of the vehicle based on the above factors and the current used car market. CARFAXís History-Based Value considers things like recalls, service records, accidents, and the number of previous owners to come up with a ballpark figure for how much the car is worth.

How can I use a CARFAX report?

Some things that you should consider red flags on a CARFAX report, particularly if the owner seems to have tried to hide them:

  • Frequent changes in ownership
  • Recently failed emissions test
  • Accidents and repairs
  • Extended time in coastal or snowy areas that cause rust
  • Lack of maintenance records

With a CARFAX report in hand, you can double-check everything the seller is telling you to ascertain whether theyíre a trustworthy person to buy a car from.

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