What Are Red Flags on a CARFAX Report?

Red flags on Carfax reports

Charles Krome · May 31, 2024

What Are Red Flags on a CARFAX Report?

Most used car shoppers prefer vehicles with clean CARFAX reports, but that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to those rides to get a great deal. For example, a used SUV with a minor fender bender indicated on its vehicle history report can actually be a smart buy: Any CARFAX accident record is going to scare off a certain number of shoppers, which could result in a lower asking price for an issue that really has no direct effect on your driving experience. 

The key is to have any used car inspected before you buy it so you can get a better handle on how minor the damage is – or isn’t. Of course, a vehicle inspection is an excellent idea before any used car purchase, because a supposedly “clean” CARFAX may have errors on it.

With that in mind here are 10 important CARFAX red flags that most buyers should avoid:

  1. A high number of owners: If a lot of people have already owned a particular car, especially if none of them have kept it for a long time, that can be a sign of a vehicle that keeps disappointing people.

  2. The wrong kind of owners: Cars and trucks owned by businesses or previously part of rental fleets are generally treated much worse by their drivers than vehicles owned by individuals.

  3. Previously stolen: People who steal cars aren’t exactly known for being careful drivers either.

  4. An imperfect title: The typical auto shopper should avoid vehicles with anything less than a clean title. Cars with salvage, rebuilt, and junk titles, or titles indicating flood/fire/hail damage, have been through serious damage. They might have been fixed to be good as new, but why take the chance?

  5. Registrations in multiple states: Some bad actors will engage in “title washing,” which is taking a vehicle with a bad title in one state and trying to register it with a clean title in another state.

  6. Previously flunked emissions test: A significant engine problem could be the reason for a failed emissions test, so you need to verify that the issue behind the failure has been addressed.

  7. Major accident damage: Again, for most folks, it’s best to cross a car off your shopping list if the vehicle history report shows a serious accident, particularly if the structure was involved or its airbags deployed. 

  8. Odometer discrepancies: Manipulating the odometer reading is one of the most common tactics for taking advantage of buyers, and today’s digital odometers can be just as vulnerable to abuse as old-school units.

  9. A history of major recalls: Recalls should be treated sort of like accidents, in that a fair number of cars experience minor ones but you should avoid the major ones.

  10. Registration gaps: There’s probably a good reason – usually bad news – for a car to be unregistered for a significant length of time.


Now that you know more about used car vehicle inspections, you can start shopping here, start selling here, and enjoy the whole HMSMC site from wherever you have an Internet connection.


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