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ConsumerWatch: Bay Area Car Buyer Finds Holes in Carfax Report

CASTRO VALLEY (CBS 5) – A CARFAX report will tell you a lot about a car you’re interested in buying. But, it may omit some important facts, as one East Bay car buyer found out recently. 

Castro Valley engineer Bruck Kifle bought a 2006 Nissan Sentra back in December 2010 from a private seller who told him “there were no problems with the car.” As “proof,” the seller showed him a CARFAX report that indicated no history of damage or accidents.

Two weeks after the sale, the car started acting up. “There were some noises, some vibration and shaking,” Kifle recalled. When he took it to a garage, the mechanic who examined the vehicle told Kifle the car had been a major accident — an accident so serious the car’s airbags had been deployed.

So why didn’t the accident show up on the CARFAX report? Spokesman Larry Gameche told CBS 5 ConsumerWatch the company is investigating, but noted the company gathers information from 34,000 sources in the U.S. and Canada, and that some information takes a while to reach its databases. Gameche pointed to a paragraph on that appears on all CARFAX reports that says the report is “based only on information supplied to CARFAX.”

The accident involving Kifle’s Nissan Sentra finally made it into CARFAX’s database in February 2011, three months after Kifle purchased the vehicle. It indicated the Sentra had been involved in a serious crash in March of 2010.

Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety said CARFAX only paints a partial picture of a car’s history, especially in the cases of the worst damage. According to Shahan, CARFAX does not include information contained in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or NMVTIS, a registry that lists if cars are totaled, junked or salvaged. Insurance companies are required to report those severe-damage cases to the registry every thirty days.

CARFAX’s Gameche said the company does not use NMVTIS information because it is available through other sources. However, Shahan contends NMVTIS is more up-to-date than other sources.

Shahan recommended all used-car buyers start their research at the NMVTIS website, It supplies links to four companies that offer searches based on NMVTIS-supplied information.

Shahan said first find out if the car you’re considering is considered “junk” or “salvage,” a situation that occurs more often than you might think. If the report doesn’t reveal a major problem, Shahan recommended taking the car to a mechanic for a check-up, and using CARFAX at that point, to get more information.

  • Born in the USA

    Anyone that buys a foreign car deserves what he gets. Keep our economy strong, buy American!

    • tferal

      I agree with you that name-calling is not necessary – pretty lame, actually. But good luck with your “buy American” mission. The jobs don’t exist here, so how the heck can one buy American???? That is an uninformed statement. You may think you are patriotic with your gung-ho words, but it comes off as narrow-minded and unintelligent. (not calling YOU these things, just saying how it appears to others.)

    • Ronbo

      Most Chryslers are built in Canada. Most of the Hondas sold in the US are built in Ohio. Many BMWs are built in Kentucky.

      To make your point even more irrelevant, the guy was buying a used car, not a new one. So its hard to see how where the car was made four years ago has much economic effect.

      If you want to help the economy – and the environment – buy a used car instead of new. We need less consumer debt, and with good maintenance, you extend the life of a used car, avoiding the carbon footprint of manufacturing a new car.

    • mike

      Wow, now everyone knows you are a uneducated idiot. There is no such thing as a American car, for a car to be considered made in America 85% or more of the vehicle needs to be made here. There isn’t a single vehicle that reaches that mark.

      • Bornn in the USA

        It’s OK to disagree me but why do you feel the need to call me names? I would never call you an idiot just because I don’t agree with you, after all, you do have the right to your opinion . I have a masters degree and an MD, so I’m not as uneducated as you perceive
        I realize that American cars are made with foreign parts, but they are still built in the USA and the money goes into our econmy, not into the Japanesa or the Euorpean economy.
        Have a nice day.

  • jojobeans

    Anyone that buys an American car deserves what he gets, and will likely be buying another car very soon. Keep our economy strong, buy American!

  • Bill

    I think you are all missing the point. Carfax is of limited usefulness when you are considering a specific used car to buy. I used AutoCheck a few years ago and found it far more thorough than Carfax. I also had the car completely checked out by a mechanic I trusted. It has caused me no trouble since I bought it.

  • MarkL

    If you think you’ve been ripped off by your recent new or used car purchase, you should get ahold of Lou Liberty at All they -do- is sue car dealers for fraud, including reselling salvaged cars without disclosing it. And even better, you don’t pay a dime unless they -win- your case (so they are playing to win, not run up your bills! – their payment come from the losing dealer as additional legal fees the judge awards!) They do the same for underwater house refinancing! And no, I am not an employee or paid shill, just a fan and ex-client! They’re at:

  • Jordan Alexander

    Excellent write-up together with beneficial data. This can be the primary explanation I retain going back.

  • e-used-cars

    Awesome post. I had never thought of it that way before.

  • vinalert sells the carfax for 9.99$ so who would by from anyway when they are overprices?

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