Advertisements tout the trustworthiness of CARFAX Reports. “Show me the CARFAX,” they say, as if a CARFAX Report will reveal everything a consumer needs to know about the history of an automobile. However, CARFAX Reports only show what is reported to CARFAX itself by the Department of Motor Vehicles, auto auctions, and insurance companies, for example. Notably, organizations are under no legal obligation to report their findings to CARFAX. That is why CARFAX Reports include the disclaimer language the Report “is based only on information supplied to CARFAX.” And it is also why CARFAX cautions purchasers “other information about this vehicle, including problems, may not have been reported to CARFAX.”

Thus, the CARFAX Buyback Guarantee only covers title brands (e.g., salvage, junk, fire, flood, lemon) reported by the DMV. CARFAX does not otherwise guarantee its reports are complete. Indeed, CARFAX warns consumers it “does not have the complete history of every vehicle.” CARFAX recommends that, in addition to getting a CARFAX Report, prospective buyers and lessees should “take a test drive[] and have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic.” This is because, although the CARFAX Report might not indicate any accident history, the vehicle may very well have sustained frame damage in a prior wreck, for example. Such damage can even appear in CARFAX Reports following one’s purchase of the vehicle.

For these reasons, many dealership employees do not rely upon CARFAX Reports. Of course, they do not inform their customers of this fact. When asked by a customer whether a vehicle has been in an accident, dealership employees may simply give the customer a “clean” CARFAX Report, knowing it is possible (perhaps in some cases likely) that a vehicle has been in an accident. This is why prospective car buyers and lessees should not accept silence in CARFAX Reports as the truth. Instead, consumers should ask if the dealership inspected the vehicle and if the dealership found evidence of accident damage.

If you bought or leased a vehicle that you later learned had accident damage, even if you were given a “clean” CARFAX, contact the Auto Fraud Legal Center for a FREE evaluation of your rights.