|Industry||Information Technology Services|
|Headquarters||Centreville, Virginia, USA|
|Richard Raines, President|
|Products||Vehicle history reports|
Number of employees
|500 - 750 employees|
In 1984 Carfax was founded in Columbia, Missouri, by a computer professional named Ewin Barnett III working with Robert Daniel Clark, an accountant from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The company is now headquartered in Centreville, Virginia, with a data center operation in Columbia. Barnett was initially trying to combat odometer fraud. By working closely with the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, in 1986 he offered the early version Carfax vehicle history report to the dealer market. These reports were developed with a database of just 10,000 records and were distributed via fax machine. By the end of 1993, Carfax obtained title information from nearly all fifty states. In December 1996, the company's website was launched to offer consumers the same vehicle history reports already available to businesses. In the fall of 1999, Carfax became a wholly owned subsidiary of R.L. Polk & Company. In 2013, IHS acquired Polk and Carfax, which added to its Automotive offerings. .
Products and services
Carfax offers several free products and services and charges a fee for more comprehensive reports.
Free products and services
The company offers four vehicle research services—Lemon Check, Record Check, Recall Check, and Problem Car. While these services are helpful, they do not contain all of the information provided in a full Carfax vehicle history report.
The company also provides Car Safety and Reliability Ratings, which provides access to reviews and other data from sources such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, J.D. Power and Associates, IntelliChoice and others.
Misleading product claims
There are three price tiers available for purchasing vehicle history reports from Carfax, each valid for 60 days from purchase: 1 Carfax Report for $39.99, 5 Carfax Reports for $49.99, or Unlimited Carfax Reports for $54.99. When purchasing the Unlimited reports it is stated in a smaller, lighter font "Unlimited Reports by U.S. License Plate," which many consumers may not notice or understand. Only after paying $54.99 are consumers informed that they are limited to 5 VIN checks. The unlimited refers to license plate searches. However, car dealers don't typically have plates on their cars, and many private party sellers obscure the license number or don't display it on their online ads. Many consumers have complained that this is a misleading practice and amounts to a bait and switch tactic.
Vehicle history reports
The Carfax Vehicle History Report is the company's core product. Users purchase either a single report or create an account for building multiple reports for different vehicles, allowing consumers to utilize Carfax over a period of time as they search for a vehicle. Additionally, buyers can request Carfax reports for free from auto dealers who offer Carfax service, and some automakers routinely provide Carfax reports as part of their pre-owned vehicle programs.
myCARFAX is a new service that allows users to reduce the headache of servicing their car, by letting them stay on top of open recalls, see their vehicle's service history, get alerts for upcoming service, and find trusted service shops.
Carfax has access to ten billion records from more than 86,000 sources, including motor vehicle departments for all 50 U.S. states and all 10 Canadian provinces. The company's information sources include U.S. state title and registration records, auto and salvage auctions, Canadian motor vehicle records, rental and fleet vehicle companies, consumer protection agencies, state inspection stations, extended warranty companies, insurance companies, fire and police departments, manufacturers, inspection companies, service and repair facilities, dealers and import/export companies.
CARFAX lists only information that is reported to them and consumers should not take this report to a be complete accident history. Not all accidents are disclosed and CARFAX uses the language "no accidents have been reported to CARFAX, the emphasis being on "reported". Consumers should not rely on CARFAX alone when checking out a used vehicle.
Additionally, Carfax includes information without context, which has resulted in misleading information being included in Vehicle History reports. For example, minor incidents which result in paint scratches are not differentiated from serious incidents that necessitate major repairs. This can often be included without the vehicle owners knowledge, and can be extremely tedious and time-consuming to correct—particularly as Carfax refuse to engage in person, and insist that everything be discussed electronically.
Although Carfax continuously expands its database and resources, some information is not allowed to be provided. Under the 1994 U.S. Drivers Privacy Protection Act, personal information such as names, telephone numbers and addresses of current or previous owners are neither collected nor reported. Carfax does not have access to every facility and mistakes are sometimes made by those who input data. In the event information is disputed but cannot be verified, Carfax allows consumers and dealerships to add information to its reports.
West v. Carfax, Inc
In a 2006 class action lawsuit, West v. Carfax, Inc., the plaintiff claimed that Carfax violated consumer protection laws by not disclosing the limitations of their service, specifically their inability to check accident records in 23 states in the U.S. while stating that their database contains information from all 50 states. The lawsuit was settled in May 2007 in the Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in Warren, Ohio. Carfax spokesman Larry Gamache said more than 10 million consumers were affected. The company asserts that it has major accident information from all 50 states and it backs up its claim with a buyback guarantee. The settlement in the West v. Carfax, Inc lawsuit was overturned and the lawyers for the class never pursued the case after that.
- Consumer Affairs.com News, October 10, 2006
- Town and Country Auto Sales website
- . IHS Completes Three Strategic Acquisitions.
- Legacy Owners Association, "Carfax Expands Relationship with Subaru," July 27, 2007,
- Ad Hoc News "Saturn Selects Carfax for Certified Pre-Owned Program" November 16, 2007
- CARFAX website/information sources
- Drivers Privacy Protection Act, 18 USC Section 2721, Public Law 103-322
- ABC7-TV news, San Francisco, January 12, 2006
- West v. Carfax, Inc. and Polk Carfax, Inc.
- It’s the Truth, but Not the Whole Truth
- Deal in Carfax lawsuit draws fire
- Heavily criticized carfax settlement ruling is overturned