3 Ways to Get a Free Carfax Report
The more expensive an item, the more you’re going to investigate it to ensure it meets your standards of quality.
Given the pricy nature of cars, it only makes sense to have a convenient way for buyers to check out the history of a vehicle before signing on the dotted line. Doing so can help the buyer avoid cars that might be costly or dangerous to own, even if they’re dirt-cheap up front.
Your cheapest and easiest option for learning more about what a car’s been through is a free Carfax report.
A free report from Carfax will enlighten you on all the important points of a car’s history.
Why Should You Check A Car’s History?
You’ve got your eye on a nice used ride. It looks in good repair, and it even drives like a normal car.
That doesn’t mean you’re good to go, though. You want to understand what the car’s been through and how well it’s maintained — otherwise, what looks like a great deal on a vehicle up front can turn into a money pit.
Here are some things a car report can shine light on.
Accidents and Other Damage
Perhaps the most important piece of a car’s history is its accident history. Fender benders aren’t a huge deal, but more severe crashes that damage structural components may be cause for concern.
If you do want to proceed with the purchase of a vehicle that’s been in a bad accident, have it checked out by an independent mechanic. Even if it appears to be fine, bad accidents provide you negotiating power to bring the price down.
Accidents, of course, aren’t the only ways you can damage a car.
Vehicle history reports also show damage from other sources, such as the elements. Some damage, such as that caused by hail, can be repaired with ease. However, avoid cars with fire and/or flood damage. Even if the car looks to be in good shape, there may be hidden damage that will be costly — or worse, dangerous,
Rolling back the odometer is illegal for obvious reasons — and it’s much harder these days due to electronics — but some people still do so anyways.
Fortunately, vehicle history reports also record the odometer reading at various points in the vehicle’s life. If the odometer reading is lower than the mileage in the report, alarm bells should be ringing in your head.
Unless, the seller has a bulletproof reason for the difference in mileage — and there are few reasons why this would ever happen — it’s best to walk away.
Generally, a car with fewer owners will be more valuable than one with more owners, given the same mileage.
Think about it: more owners adds complexity and uncertainty to the vehicle’s history. For example, there’s a higher chance that a previous owner had poor driving or maintenance habits that increased wear on the car.
Ideally, you’ll find a car with only one previous owner, and that owner would be an individual instead of a business. If the latter is true, make sure your mechanic is informed of that when inspecting the vehicle.
Proper maintenance can do wonders for extending a vehicle’s life.
Now, maintenance records may not document every single oil change and tire fillup, but these records can still serve as a confirmation that major maintenance tasks were performed at the correct times.
Additionally, maintenance history can give you a glimpse into potential problems. If you see an important component show up several times — say the transmission — then this car might be a costly move. When a transmission stops working, it’s not fun nor cheap.
What is a Carfax Report?
Carfax is an online service that distributes reports, dubbed Carfax reports, regarding the histories of cars and light trucks to people and businesses. They have nearly 22 billion records in their database.
To create its reports, Carfax collects data from several sources:
- Police departments
- Fire departments
- Motor vehicle repair agencies
- Collision repair businesses
And several others.
Carfax uses a vehicle’s 17-digit VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, to create reports that display all of the information we mentioned above, as well as warranty information on the car.
They go to great lengths to ensure you get all the details of cars. For example, they delineate severe accidents from minor accidents — important because cars that had minor accidents can still work fine, yet you can bargain down the price.
How Do I Get a Free Carfax Report?
Car are expensive, even when used. You shouldn’t have to pay even more to learn about the history.
Fortunately, Carfax offers you four methods with which you can get a free Carfax report.
1.) Shop for Cars on Carfax.com
Carfax lists a lot of pre-owned, for-sale vehicles on its site. As you’d expect, each one comes with a free Carfax report, courtesy of Carfax.
2.) Shop on Other Car Sites
Other car sites like Autotrader.com offer free Carfax reports on many of their vehicles. Some vehicles may not come with a free Carfax report, though — in that case, ask the seller for a Carfax report. If they refuse or try to stall, the car may not be in as great shape as they say it is.
3.) Car Dealers
Any car dealer that sells used cars tends to have accompanying Carfax reports. You can likely find them on their website. If not, you can either contact them and ask for one, or visit in person.
4.) Private Sellers
If you’re buying in-person from a private seller, always ask for a free Carfax report. Again, any refusal or stalling could mean they’re uncomfortable about the car’s history — not a good sign.
Alternatives to a Free Carfax Report
Carfax is an excellent way of learning about a vehicle’s history, but it isn’t the only way. You have several alternative options for getting a vehicle history report.
Go to Another Free Provider
Don’t worry — many of your options are free.
Vincheck.info is a great site that gathers data about a car using its VIN or license plate. Vincheck.info’s reports can show you accidents, damage, odometer readings, and more.
Lemonchecks.com is another free site you can use to obtain a report. They make it ultra-simple: just enter the VIN in question in the field provided on their homepage and Lemonchecks will pull in all the info.
Lemonchecks works for cars, trucks, vans, RVs, and motorcycles in the US, Mexico, and Canada.
iSeeCars Vin Report
iSeeCars is free yet it goes beyond your standard car history report. Some things they list aside from the normal stuff include
- Price analysis — estimates car’s value based on the local market and finds similar cars in the area, helping your compare your options
- Selling history — Lists price changes, as well as the history of where and when the car was listed and sold
- Dealer scorecard — Compares the competitiveness, responsiveness, and transparency of several car dealerships
- Supply analysis — Further analyzes availability of similar cars in local market, providing you with additional bargaining power should other cars be priced lower
- Theft record — Checks to see if the vehicle has ever been stolen
- Open recall — Informs you of any open recalls that haven’t been attended to
Among other things.
Like other services, just plug in the vehicle’s VIN and iSeeCars will do the rest.
In addition to all of your free options, there are several places from which you can obtain paid reports. You’ll want to choose from a provider approved by the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).
Get Them to Show You the Carfax First
Used cars are cheaper than new cars — and they depreciate a lot less — but the “baggage” of previous owners and miles gone by can become much more costly than a new car.
No matter how you get your hands on one, a vehicle history report is a fantastic way to view a succinct history of everything a car’s been through. It won’t show everything, but it makes you a much more informed consumer.
And when it comes to being a consumer, knowledge is power.