Carfax, Inc.

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Company typeSubsidiary
Founded1984; 40 years ago (1984)
in Columbia, Missouri
FoundersRobert Daniel Clark
Ewin Barnett
United States
Area served
ProductsCARFAX Reports
ParentS&P Global
  • CARFAX Canada ULC
  • CARFAX Europe GmbH

CARFAX, Inc. is an American company that provides vehicle data to individuals and businesses. Its most well-known product is the CARFAX Vehicle History Report.[1] Their other products include vehicle listings, car valuation, and buying and maintenance advice.[2]


CARFAX was founded in Columbia, Missouri in 1984 by Ewin Barnett III and Robert Daniel Clark. In 1986, by working closely with the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, the company offered an early version of the CARFAX vehicle history report to the dealer market. These reports were developed with a database of 10,000 records and distributed via fax. In December 1996, the company launched its website as part of an effort to sell its reports directly to consumers.

CARFAX has undergone several ownership changes since its founding. In the fall of 1999, Carfax became a wholly owned subsidiary of R.L. Polk & Company.[3] In 2013, IHS acquired Polk and CARFAX.[4] In March 2016, IHS had a merger of equals with Markit, becoming IHS Markit.[5] On February 28, 2022, S&P Global purchased IHS Markit, and CARFAX became a brand in the company's newly formed S&P Global Mobility business unit.[6][7]

Products and services[edit]

Vehicle history reports[edit]

The CARFAX Vehicle History Report is the company's best-known product. A CARFAX Report can provide information about the number of owners a used car has had, accidents it has been in, title issues, whether it was a fleet vehicle, and its maintenance record, among other aspects of its history.

Information sourcing[edit]

CARFAX claims to have access to over 30 billion records [8] from more than 131,000 sources, including motor vehicle departments for the 50 U.S. states and the 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.[9]

CARFAX lists only information that is reported to them. Hence, consumers should not take these reports to be an exhaustive 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.

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.[10][11] 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.[12]


West v. CARFAX[edit]

In a 2006 class-action lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed that CARFAX violated consumer protection laws by not disclosing the limitations of its service, specifically its inability to check accident records in 23 states in the U.S. while stating that its database contains information from all 50 states.[13] The lawsuit was settled in May 2007 in the Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in Warren, Ohio.[14][15] 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, not on the merits of the issue, but on the terms of the settlement which did not offer enough to the affected consumers and because "not enough consumers were notified and the judge should not have agreed to the settlement without knowing more about what it would cost CARFAX."[16]

Accident report for wrong vehicle[edit]

In 2024, the Boston Globe reported the case of a driver who was unable to get Carfax to remove an obviously incorrect report of an accident for her car, which had never been in any accident. About 3,200 license plate numbers in Massachusetts overlap between commercial and passenger vehicles, and despite a police report clearly coded for a commercial vehicle, Carfax assigned an accident to the passenger vehicle instead. The company asked the driver to have the police "correct" the accident report, which did not have any errors, and eventually became unresponsive. The false Carfax report was only corrected when a newspaper reporter contacted the company, which did not apologize for the error.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hawley, Dustin (September 21, 2022). "How To Read Accident Information On A Carfax Vehicle History Report". J.D. Power. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  2. ^ "CARFAX™ - Shop, Buy, Own, & Sell Used Cars". Carfax. Archived from the original on November 29, 2023. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  3. ^ "Town & Country Auto CARFAX info". Archived from the original on December 27, 2008.
  4. ^ "Polk was acquired by IHS Markit, now part of S&P Global". S&P Global. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  5. ^ "IHS to buy data provider Markit, combined company to base in UK". Reuters. March 21, 2016. Retrieved December 12, 2023 – via CNBC.
  6. ^ "S&P Global to buy IHS Markit in $44bn deal". Financial Times. November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  7. ^ Lombardo, Cara; Hoffman, Liz (November 30, 2020). "S&P Global Agrees to Buy IHS Markit for About $44 Billion". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  8. ^ "Carfax Hits 30 Billion Records in Vehicle History Database" (Press release). Centreville, VA: Carfax. December 6, 2022. Retrieved December 13, 2023 – via PR Newswire.
  9. ^ "CARFAX Vehicle History Data Sources". Carfax. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  10. ^ 18 U.S.C. §§ 27212725
  11. ^ "Drivers Privacy Protection Act". Retrieved December 12, 2023 – via Access Reports.
  12. ^ "CARFAX has a problem with car disclosure bill". San Francisco: KGO-TV. September 21, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2023 – via WLS-TV.
  13. ^ "West v. Carfax". Public Citizen. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  14. ^ Jensen, Christopher (May 6, 2007). "It's the Truth, but Not the Whole Truth". The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  15. ^ Shepardson, David (April 15, 2007). "Deal in Carfax lawsuit draws fire". The Detroit News. Washington. Archived from the original on April 16, 2008 – via The Boston Globe.
  16. ^ Jensen, Christopher (December 31, 2009). "Carfax Settlement Is Overturned". The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  17. ^ Sean P. Murphy (February 19, 2024). "Carfax said her Subaru was in an accident. It wasn't, and they refused to correct it for months". The Boston Globe.