ANJ Investigates

Action News Jax Investigates: Carfax reports not always up to speed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action News Jax investigation found Carfax reports may not include the latest information on accidents or repairs.

Steve Helton wants to know why the Carfax report he got for the 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500 he bought in December 2016 showed “no issues” with the car.


“Thought certainly everything was fine with it,” Helton said. So, he paid $35,709 for the truck since it had only 25,101 miles on it.

Helton expected the vehicle’s history to be up to date, but Action News Jax Investigator Ben Becker discovered that’s not always the case - Helton’s truck had a secret.

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“I went to sell the car and buy another truck and found it had been in not one, but two accidents. One being major,” Helton said. It turned out the two crashes happened three months before Helton bought the truck in 2016.

An updated Carfax showed the truck had damage to nearly all sides of the vehicle, and the crashes weren’t reported to the service until 2017. Which means Helton paid more than he should have when he bought it and received less money when he sold it.

The Carfax website states its database includes more than 30 billion records to help millions of people like Helton who spend thousands of dollars on used cars.

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“What causes the lag time?” Becker asked Andy Boyles, owner of, a service that inspects cars before you buy.

“It’s like playing the game telephone,” Boyles said. “It has to go through a bunch of different layers before it gets to the report online.”

Some of those layers can take a few months. Carfax says it learns about a crash through police reports, auto auctions, insurance claims and repair shops.

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But our Action News Jax investigation found some repair shops don’t partner with the company and others don’t report every repair they do make, if it’s what the customer wants.

“They can request ‘do not report this’ and pay cash rather than going through insurance,” Boyles said.

According to the Florida Attorney General’s Office, it’s received six complaints about Carfax in the past three years. The Better Business Bureau gives Carfax an A+ rating although it’s received more than 600 complaints in the past three years.

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Becker emailed Carfax and a spokesperson sent a statement:

“CARFAX Vehicle History Reports offer a historical perspective based on data received from over 131,000 sources that have agreed to supply information to Carfax. Carfax does not have data from every source of vehicle history information, and not all sources that collect vehicle history information provide such information to Carfax. Carfax receives accident and damage records from many sources, including most states, and we add those records to our database on a regular basis. Some sources of data may include historical events dating back several years in a vehicle’s history. Please keep in mind, however, that since many events are never reported to the police or any other source, those events may never be reported to Carfax. In fact, because the data is not a complete source of information, Carfax recommends that every potential buyer obtain a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. As clearly stated on the first page of every CARFAX report: “This CARFAX Vehicle History Report is based only on information supplied to CARFAX and available as of [date and time report was run]. Other information about this vehicle, including problems, may not have been reported to CARFAX. Use this report as one important tool, along with a vehicle inspection and test drive, to make a better decision about your next used car.”

As for Helton, he bought a new truck from a neighbor and is trying to put his last truck in the rear-view mirror.

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“What’s really ironic here is a lot of people who are victims don’t even know about it yet,” he said.

There are other services you can use, like AutoCheck or the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles information check. Each have their limitations.

Boyles recommends that you get the car inspected by a professional mechanic before you buy. The price typically starts at around $150.

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