LONG BEACH, Calif., Feb. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The vehicle history report has revolutionized used car shopping for buyers and sellers. Having accident and title history, DMV records and repair information has shined a light on what used to be a "he said/she said" account about a vehicle's past. These reports also deliver information on reported accidents, odometer rollback, lemon vehicles and branded titles.
Two of the leading vehicle history report companies, AutoCheck® and CarFax®, pull vehicle information from thousands of sources in all 50 states.
But is all this research enough?
"In a comparison of 255 inspected used vehicles with ten or more panels of previous repair, we found 134, or 52.5 percent, had accident damage or repair work that wasn't on the vehicle history report," says Eric Widmer, Vice President of Sales and Operations at AIM Mobile Inspections (www.aimmobileinspections.com), which conducts vehicle inspections for consumers and dealers throughout the U.S. "These reports are only as good as the information that gets reported. If it's not forwarded to the vehicle history databases from one of the agencies, DMVs or insurance companies, there's no way a vehicle history report can have that information, which is critical for someone buying a car."
Vehicle history reports are limited in the information they provide, which may surprise some consumers. Whether it's due to an unreported accident, discrepancies in data, insufficient information or a company not providing the data, it's virtually impossible for a vehicle history report to be completely accurate.
Further, there's little or no double-checking or confirming the data, or it may be reported incorrectly due to human error. Sometimes there's a delay between an event occurring and the information being reported, which allows time for an unscrupulous seller to sell the car to an unsuspecting consumer.
"Very often, cars that have been damaged don't show up" on a vehicle history report, says Rosemary Shahan, founder of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS). "It's not required that states give them (vehicle history report companies) the data in a timely way."
"A physical vehicle inspection can help a buyer and/or seller get the complete picture," says AIM's Widmer. "We can find evidence of a problem that may not show up in the vehicle's history report."
Vehicle history report companies include disclaimers regarding the accuracy of their information. CarFax states their reports only include "information listed as 'reported to CarFax,'" while AutoCheck warns: "It is not always possible for Experian (which markets AutoCheck) to obtain complete discrepancy information on all vehicles."
Jeff Green of Long Beach, California is a perfect example. In October 2010, his Infiniti coupe was hit from behind at a stoplight, forcing his car into the vehicle in front of him. Six weeks and $13,000 in repairs later, he thought the car looked pretty good, but had it inspected by AIM to see how well the repair work had been performed.
"Within 60 seconds the inspector said to me, 'wow, you got hit pretty good,'" said Jeff. "I hadn't even mentioned an accident and he knew my car had been rammed by looking at the space between panels and replacement hinges – things I didn't notice."
Vehicle history reports on Jeff's Infiniti, obtained eight weeks after the car was rear-ended, had no information reported related to the accident. The AutoCheck report stated "Reported Accidents: 0," and "No frame/unibody damage record." The CarFax report came back with similar news: "No accident/damage reported to CarFax."
Three months later, the reports showed no information regarding an accident involving the Infiniti.
AIM's inspector found otherwise, noting, "The vehicle was involved in a collision to the rear and has repair work to the front bumper," and also found misalignment between panels, overspray, clamp marks and a trunk that didn't close easily. All are telltale signs of accident repair work.
How can a consumer find out about information missing from a vehicle history report?
A vehicle inspection is one solution. AutoCheck's reports state: "It is recommended to have pre-owned vehicles inspected by a third party prior to purchase."
Widmer agrees. "The best solution is to combine a vehicle inspection with a vehicle history report. You'll have what's been reported about the car and a report on its current condition, which will allow you to make the most informed decision, whether buying or selling."
"Get your own trusted, independent technician" to look at the car, says Shahan of CARS. "It will be the best money you spend in the entire transaction."
SOURCE AIM Mobile Inspections