Carfax vs. AutoCheck vehicle history reports: Which is better?

Woman standing outside of a car, holding paperwork and talking to a couple sitting in the carImage: Woman standing outside of a car, holding paperwork and talking to a couple sitting in the car

In a Nutshell

Carfax and AutoCheck vehicle history reports provide important information about a car’s past that can help you identify potential problems. Key differences between the two reports include cost and the amount of information included about the vehicle. Plus, AutoCheck provides a unique vehicle-scoring system. The report that’s right for you depends on your budget and how much detail you want.
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Carfax and AutoCheck provide vehicle history reports with information about the condition of used cars. These reports can help you spot potential issues and make an informed buying decision.

Vehicle history reports provide details like the salvage title, number of previous owners and reported accidents, which can alert you to possible red flags in the vehicle’s history.

A number of websites, including Carfax and AutoCheck, offer vehicle history reports. Which is better for you? To help you decide, let’s explore the differences between these reports.

When should I get a vehicle history report?

Getting a vehicle history report is a good idea whenever you’re buying a used car, particularly from a private seller, or when selling your car to a private buyer.

If you want to buy a used car from a private seller, a vehicle history report might alert you to problems you didn’t realize existed.

Many used-car dealers and some car sales websites will give you a free copy of the car’s vehicle history report, so you don’t have to purchase one on your own.

If you’re selling your car, providing a vehicle history report to potential buyers may give them peace of mind about the condition of the car, which could make it easier to sell.

Several websites allow you to easily get a copy of a car’s vehicle history report by entering its vehicle identification number, or VIN.

Carfax vs. AutoCheck

  Carfax AutoCheck

$39.99 for one report

$59.99 for three reports

$99.99 for six reports

$24.99 for one report

$49.99 for 25 reports

$99.99 for 300 reports

Buyback protection Yes Yes
Scoring system No Yes
Report includes maintenance records Yes No

Carfax vehicle history reports: Comprehensive but costly

Carfax was founded in 1984 as a division of IHS Markit, an information analytics company headquartered in London.

The company pulls information from more than 100,000 data sources to create its vehicle history reports. Carfax sources include motor vehicle agencies, auto auctions, body shops, mechanics, insurance companies, police and fire departments, and car dealerships.

Carfax reports feature details on whether the vehicle has a salvage title, accident and damage history, service records, open recalls, odometer problems, previous owners and more. Carfax reports are more comprehensive than AutoCheck — unlike AutoCheck, they include information on any maintenance or service that was reported.

But all of this information comes at a cost — Carfax reports are pricier than AutoCheck reports. For example, the cost for six Carfax reports is $99.99. With AutoCheck, you can get 300 reports for the same price.

How do I get a free Carfax report?

If a Carfax report is missing information, you might be able to take advantage of the Carfax Buyback Guarantee. If you buy a car with certain title problems that were reported to a state department of motor vehicles but didn’t show up on the vehicle history report, Carfax may buy the car back from you.

Who is a Carfax report good for? Go for a Carfax report if you’ve narrowed your car search to one or two vehicles and want detailed information on those cars.

AutoCheck vehicle history reports: Unique scoring system

AutoCheck is a subsidiary of Experian that’s been providing vehicle history reports since 1996.

AutoCheck uses information from similar sources to Carfax to compile its vehicle history reports. As a result, AutoCheck reports should include information similar to what you’d find in Carfax reports, but they don’t feature service or maintenance records.

Like Carfax, AutoCheck offers buyback protection for some vehicles. So if a certain title issue — like a salvage title — was reported by the state to Experian but doesn’t show up on your AutoCheck report, the company may buy the vehicle from you.

AutoCheck’s scoring system is unique. Based on the data in the vehicle history report, the company assigns each car an AutoCheck Score to help you quickly see how it compares to similar vehicles. The AutoCheck Score is a brief summary of the information in the report.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to compare the vehicle’s AutoCheck Score to the score range for similar vehicles. AutoCheck provides the following example: If the recommended score range for a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu is 90 to 95, but the AutoCheck Score is 89, the car’s history may have more negative factors than similar cars of the same make and model.

In other words, you might want to consider other 2005 Chevrolet Malibu cars instead. So while each car is assigned a score of 1 to 100, a score of, say, 85 isn’t necessarily good.

Who is an AutoCheck report good for? Go for AutoCheck if you’re still shopping around and want to easily compare the histories of multiple cars without breaking the bank.

Why a vehicle history report isn’t enough

Getting a vehicle history report is a good first step in the car-buying process, but don’t stop there. A vehicle history report is only as good as the information reported on the car — and it may not be complete. AutoCheck notes on its website that its reports may not provide details on every accident a vehicle had if the accident damage isn’t reported to AutoCheck.

A vehicle history report also doesn’t provide information on how the car runs. To get a comprehensive picture of the car’s condition, take it for a test drive and have it inspected by a qualified mechanic. And if you want to double check on a used car, you can use the free National Highway Traffic Safety Administration search tool to search for safety issues and recalls.

Test driving a car will give you a chance to spot obvious signs of damage and get a feel for how the car drives. A mechanic can tell you about the condition of parts you can’t see, alert you to potential mechanical issues and let you know whether it’s been in an accident that wasn’t reported.

What’s next?

No vehicle history report can provide all the information you need to decide whether a particular vehicle is right for you. The report that’s best for you depends on your individual needs and where you are in the car-buying process.

Regardless of which vehicle history report you choose, remember to follow up by taking the car for a test drive and getting it inspected by a mechanic before you get a car loan or shell out the cash to buy it.

About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Towson University. She’s committed… Read more.