The Truth About Your Vehicle's History

After the icy conditions left behind with the February Freeze, it can only be expected many cars will soon be headed to mechanics for repairs.  But, will that show up on your vehicle's history report?

Those we talked with, expect damages from wrecks to show up on reports like CARFAX, but were surprised to learn that's not always the case.  Newschannel 6 Lindsey Rogers exposes the truth behind your vehicle's history.

"The first part of the week I think we'll be inundated with repairs, I'm sure every shop in town will be," William Rose with Rose's Auto & Trucks said.

When you purchase a car you expect to know if it's engine block cracked or the water pump or batteries froze from the cold February Freeze temperatures.

Buying a car is a huge purchase and even if it's a used one, you want to know what you're getting.

So, many people turn to crash report companies like CARFAX to give them the low down on the vehicle's history.

CARFAX has built it's reputation on the idea that for just $35 it will tell you the "truth" about a car you're about to buy, but our investigation discovered more times than not, it's no where near the "whole truth".

"From seeing the commercials, I thought they had all the information and they were pretty up to date on this stuff, but after you showing me mine, apparently they don't get all the facts," Eric Crosslin said.

We ran CARFAX reports on five of our co-workers, including Only Online reporter Eric Crosslin and photographer Colleen Wilson. All of their vehicles had been wrecked at least once while they owned their cars. Eric's and Colleen's were in multiple accidents.

"I pulled out right into a semi-truck that was carrying a tractor combine. I managed to swerve and only hit the tractor combine but it ripped my bumper off and the front left panel ripped up and there were wire hanging down below the tires and it completely destroyed the front of my car," Wilson said.

She was also involved in another accident a couple years later.
Neither of the wrecks showed up on her car's crash report.

"I definitely expected them to show up on the CARFAX. I filed both with insurance and police officers had a report. It's all on paper so I couldn't believe that it wouldn't show up," Wilson said.

"It was dark probably 7 p.m. and a deer darted out in front of my car. I didn't have time to dodge it and he hit and went up on my hood and did all sorts of damage to my driver side front headlights, fender, hood all of that," Crosslin said.

The next year another deer rammed the side of Crosslin's car. As luck would have it, just a few months after that, mother nature attacked again, this time in the form of a raccoon.

"He tore up my front fender, bumper and pulled all sorts of hoses and stuff out from the bottom of my car and also did some damage to my air conditioner," Crosslin said.

Crosslin reported all three accidents to his insurance and had all damage repaired, costing him a total of about $8,000.

Shockingly, not one of these accidents showed up on his vehicle's CARFAX history report.

"I would think all three of them would be on there because they did pretty extensive damage to the front of my car and in fact, when they were working on it for the third wreck, they found damage on the compressor of my air conditioner that apparently wasn't in those reports either," Crosslin said.

We showed pictures of Crosslin's car before he got it fixed to several Texomans, then showed them his CARFAX report.

"You do a good job and check out the car you're going to buy and then it may be false advertising," Stephanie Wilkie said.

"I would expect it to, if you ran a history report on it," Bob Ford said.

"I know a lot about cars and there's damage that you can't see. Beauty is only skin deep. You dig into that motor and frame and sub frame, that's where your problems lie. You might have front end problems on there forever that you just don't realize until after you buy it," Will Simmons said.

If they were looking to purchase Crosslin's car and found out about the previous damage, most said it would be a deal breaker.

"I wouldn't buy it," Wilkie said.

"Anytime your car goes in for slightly major body work you would want to know these things. Especially three times I've had my car in the shop the last year and a half. So, yeah I would definitely want to know that if I was buying my car," Crosslin said.

"It's definitely misleading and I feel worried for if I ever sold my car and somebody was going to buy it and looked up the CARFAX and saw there was nothing wrong and then later down the line, I mean it's been fixed and my car runs fine now but what if something does happen that happened when I got into an accident. It would feel like they got scammed and I don't want anybody to get scammed," Wilson said.

On its website, CARFAX cites possible data sources for where it gets a vehicle's information.

The first listed is U.S. motor vehicle agencies. We reached out to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more.

"Certain companies can actually contract with us in order to see some of the records of the DMV database," Kim Sue Lia Perkes said.

She is the Texas DMV Public Information Officer and said because of driver protection acts, those companies are restricted to only the most basic facts about a car.

As far as accidents go, insurance providers are only required to report to the DMV when a vehicle is salvaged.

"What's not in the official state DMV database is we don't know when you did your oil changes, we don't know if you had a fender bender anything that happened to the vehicle that you were involved with in terms of an accident or repairing it those are not in the DMV bases," Perkes said.

CARFAX does not, "have the complete history of every vehicle.  A CARFAX vehicle history report is based only on the information supplied to CARFAX," state on its website.

While history reports can give you some insight into your vehicle's past, CARFAX says in order to make a better decision on a used car also get a full inspection and do a test drive.

"We find a lot of problems with a lot of the dealers don't inspect them that closely or don't want to repair the problems that are there so we make a full list of the repairs that need to be done to bring it up in good shape. And, also give an estimate on the repairs so that the person knows if they're going to buy it that's what they're going to need to pay to put it in good shape," Rose said.

Rose told us they usually find anywhere from $500-$1,000 if not more worth of repairs that need to be made.

"Sometimes they have been in a wreck and people don't know that when you put it up on a rack you can see a lot of times the flaws in the paint, or where repairs have been made. Sometimes it has damage to the suspension or steering. Could be one of a lot of anything. Especially on a vehicle that has more than 50,000-60,000 miles on it," Rose said.

This investigation was an eye-opener to all those we talked with.  Crosslin and Wilson agree, it will change the way they shop for cars in the future.

"If you really want to know the history of that car I'd take it to a mechanic and have them look at it because my mechanic had to tell me there was something wrong with this car that wasn't on CARFAX. He had to tell me the compressor had been rebuilt. CARFAX didn't have that on there," Crosslin said.

"I will definitely do my research if I buy a used car," Wilson said.

Of the five vehicles we ran CARFAX on, only one reported structural or frame damage.

A full inspection by a mechanic will run you $60 at Rose's Auto and Truck, but it may save you a ton in the long run.