Consumer Reports Advises Car Shoppers Not to Solely Rely on Used-Car-History Reports

A recent investigation by Consumer Reports found that some used cars that had been damaged in accidents received “clean” reports from all five car history reporting services.

A used-car-history report is usually one of the most important factors in deciding if a consumer will purchase a used vehicle or not. Consumers want to know if the car they’re about to spend thousands of dollars on has ever been in a serious accident or had water or fire damage.

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If you want to make sure the used car you’re about to buy was ever damaged in an accident, Consumer Reports suggests you don’t rely solely on used-car-history reports to make your decision.

Consumer Reports said in a statement that it ordered history reports for dozens of damaged vehicles advertised online. The vehicles’ owners disclosed serious dents or other accident-related damage along with vehicle identification numbers and photos.

Some damaged cars got "clean" reports sometimes from all five services (Carfax, Autocheck, the free VINCheck from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and two services providing information from the federal government’s National Motor Vehicle Title Information Systems database).

Consumer Reports found that in most cases, the titles for those vehicles were not branded with the word "salvage" or any other term to indicate that they had been in a wreck. Because of Consumer Reports’ investigation and findings, Carfax says it will begin looking at online advertisements for such vehicles and see if it’s possible to include the results.

Consumer Reports’ investigation is in its July issue, on newsstands June 2 and online at


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