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Used Car Buyers Beware: Expose Reveals Information Gaps In Online Research Tools

CarfaxFor many people, buying a used car became much easier after the advent of the online research service Carfax.  The site lets you research the driving records of a prospective purchase to determine if it’s ever been in an accident. If the auto gets a green check mark next to its vehicle ID number, it’s deemed without the kind of lingering damage that can be hard to detect, but can render a vehicle unsafe to drive.  But does the Carfax seal of approval really give an accurate picture of a vehicle’s history?

According to an expose by ABC’s 20/20 http://abcnews.go.com/, the service is often less than accurate.  They found that in many cases, Carfax missed important information detailing accident damage among the vehicles surveyed.  The news source used another screening service called Autocheck and found that more than two dozen used autos that Carfax had deemed accident free, actually had suffered damage from crashes. Some of the vehicles had damage to their frames, which is almost impossible to correct and can be a serious safety hazard.  Autocheck uses a feature that Carfax omits:  data from vehicle auctions.  Vehicle auctions are frequently the places autos end up after they’ve been ‘totaled’ by insurance agencies. If a vehicle is ‘totaled’ it’s deemed to have suffered more damage than it’s feasible to correct. Essentially, the vehicle is not fit to drive. Although both Carfax, Autocheck and similar services include disclaimers about their comprehensiveness, used car dealers often portray their reports as indisputable proof of a vehicle’s health.

According to one collision repair service, Georgia Square Collision, http://gasqcollision.com/, consumers should never put their entire faith in any online research service when it comes to diagnosing a used vehicle’s condition. A report by Carfax or Autocheck is a great tool for finding info about a prospective purchase, but a physical inspection by a reputable mechanic is the only way to determine if a vehicle has suffered collision damage.  They state, “A trained service or body repair technician can identify issues with a vehicle that the purchaser would never notice, or confirm that the car is in good condition, before a purchase decision is made. Armed with the results of this inspection and the vehicle history report, you can either buy the vehicle knowing it is a sound investment, negotiate the price from a position of strength, or walk away having protected both you and your wallet from harm.”

An inspection usually takes only about an hour and can reveal critical information about damage that could cost thousands of dollars to repair, or could deem a vehicle permanently unfit to drive.  Although an inspection of this type will cost you roughly $50 to $150, it’s well worth the price to avoid the headaches and safety issues that can come from purchasing a defective vehicle.

While buying a used vehicle can save you thousands of dollars over buying a brand new one, consumers should use every tool available to determine the true value and overall fitness of their purchase.