CarFax vs. AutoCheck: What’s the difference?

Posted Saturday, Sep 30, 2017

AutoCheck vs. CarFax: What’s the difference?

You’ve probably heard of CarFax, and the Car Fox, and all their cute and funny commercials, but what about AutoCheck?  AutoCheck is a direct competitor to CarFax, but they don’t have the same brand name recognition as CarFax, so what’s the difference?

While CarFax is more well known, it doesn’t mean it’s better.  AutoCheck is owned by Experien, the credit report company, and is starting to gain market share with savvy partnerships across the industry.  Lets take a look and see how the two vehicle history report companies stack up:

Brand: This one goes to CarFax.  CarFax spends millions of dollars every year advertising their product, and beating their tagline into your head, through online and TV ads.  Who hasn’t heard, “Just show me the CarFax!”

Service History: This one goes to CarFax too.  They have partnerships with most dealers and many independent service facilities to report the maintenance that has been done on cars.  Sometimes the report will be very basic, but sometimes it will be more in depth, telling you a timing belt was replaced, brakes or electrical was serviced etc.  Just because CarFax doesn’t list the item specifically, though does not mean it wasn’t done.  Remember, both companies do they best they can to piece together a report using imperfect information, and not all service facilities or dealers report full details.  It’s been reported to us that some major dealership groups in the Sacramento region have separated their ties with CarFax in the service department, and no longer report at all.  A company representative told us that there was an error in the mileage entered when a car was serviced, and it resulted in the CarFax claiming the odometer had been tampered with, when it fact it had not.  To avoid any future hassles like that, the dealership discontinued reporting service work to CarFax.

AutoCheck receives some service data as well, but they do not have near the same quantity of dealers and service centers that report to them, so they are less likely to have data on service history on the vehicle you’re looking at, but remember, just because the CarFax or AutoCheck doesn’t show service history on the car, doesn’t mean it wasn’t serviced.

Accident Damage: This is a tough one.  CarFax and AutoCheck generally get reports from the same sources such as police reports showing if a car has been in an accident, however, they also receive reports from body shops as well, and can report body work being done as an unreported accident, when that’s not always the case.  Body work can be done on a car for any number of reasons, maybe it was scratched by the kid’s bike in the driveway, or a tree fell on the fender, or maybe the paint was beginning to fade.  These are all reasons a car may be in a body and paint shop, and in our experience, CarFax is more likely to report these events as damage than AutoCheck is.  A good used car expert will often times be a better judge of whether or not a car’s body and paint has been worked on than a history report, but in our experience AutoCheck may not falsely report minor incidents as frequently as CarFax.  In fact CarFax has recently added another category to try and solve this issue by reporting “minor damage” on some reports instead of saying it’s been in an accident.  Even still, our experience shows us AutoCheck tends to be more accurate when reporting a history of accidents on a used car.  Certain cars that have a known accident history have come back with clean CarFaxes, but an accurate AutoCheck, so for these reasons, this one goes to AutoCheck.

Structural Damage: While CarFax has many partnerships with dealers and service centers, AutoCheck has been smart in making some strategic partnerships of it’s own.  AutoCheck is currently partnered with most of the major car dealer auctions, and many online listing sites as well(so be prepared to see the “show me the AutoCheck” link more often!).  When a dealer sells a car at auction, they are required by the auction house to make certain disclosures regarding the car they are selling.  One of these disclosures is frame or structural damage.  In more than one occasion we have seen cars with clean CarFaxes, showing no accident damage at all, let alone any frame or structural damage, while the AutoCheck reports frame or structural damage on the car, because it was announced at auction as being sold that way.  Some dealers may buy a car like this at auction, knowing it has a history of prior structural damage, then sell the car as undamaged, using the CarFax to represent the car as clean.  At Petrol Auto Sales if a car has any evidence of frame or structural damage, on ANY history report, reported at auction, or evidenced when we inspect the car ourselves, we have the vehicle inspected for safety and structural integrity at a third party body and frame shop.  We will not retail a car if it does not pass this inspection with flying colors.  While either history report provider may have reports of damage missing from the other, in our experience AutoCheck is more likely to have an accurate report of serious damage to the car that a buyer should be made aware of prior to purchase.  This one goes to AutoCheck.

Ownership History:  In 2008 my mom goes to a local Nissan dealer and buys a brand new Altima.  Has the car for almost 10 years and decides to sell it.  We ran the AutoCheck, and it says 1-owner, Ok so far so good.  Run the CarFax?  It says 3 owners!  I’ve shown CarFaxes to many people trading in cars who say they bought the car brand new, while the CarFax shows multiple owners.  CarFax gets their information from DMV registration history, and can’t seem to figure out the difference between someone paying off a car, moving addresses, or refinancing their own car, and someone actually selling it to a new owner.  We have not had these same issues with AutoCheck.  Until CarFax can figure this one out, AutoCheck gets the point here in a landslide.

Title History:  In over 13 years in the industry I have yet to see either history report provider show inaccurate information regarding a salvage or branded title.  You can refer to either report with confidence.  This one is a draw.

Ease of Use:  We should look at several categories here.  How about cost?  A CarFax report costs a consumer almost $40 per car now!  Hopefully the dealer you’re doing business with has an account if you want to see a CarFax because that’s a lot of money to see a vehicle history report.  A single AutoCheck report is only $24.99.  Still a lot of money, but cheaper still.  We are also a big fan of AutoCheck’s numerical score they give each vehicle.  They will show you the typical range cars of that year and model score at, then the score this particular vehicle comes in at.  This allows you in a quick glance to see if the car has a healthy history, or if there is something to look out for.  We do like CarFax’s display on the upper half of the first page though, showing different symbols indicating which category is clean and which you should look into further.  Still, we’ve got to give this point to AutoCheck.

Final Score: CarFax: 2, AutoCheck: 4

If service history is the most important thing to you, CarFax is a good company, and they do the best they can with imperfect information, but for our money as a dealer, we have had accounts with both providers, and have decided to cancel our CarFax and move forward with only AutoCheck.  We feel AutoCheck offers a reliable source of history on each used car, and are happy to continue to provide a copy of the report for each pre-owned car we have in stock.

Questions?  Please get in touch through our Contact Us Page!