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Just the facts


Anyone who has purchased a used car from a dealer or perhaps from an individual has been exposed to the used car evaluation system called Carfax.  This nationwide system tracks accidents, services and mileage for vehicles as reported by various agencies.  These agencies range from the police to your local oil change facility.  Here are some personal observations.

A report on a vehicle that shows no accidents does not guarantee there has been no damage repair.  I’ve seen a vehicle with $6,000 in repairs have a clean report.  I’ve also seen a vehicle with a $200 fender fix have a positive accident report.  Sometimes just having a police report of an incident will create a positive accident report on a vehicle regardless of damage.

Lesson here: If you are involved in an accident with a police report, document your involvement and the vehicle damage carefully.  This way you can explain the accident to future potential owners of your vehicle.  Consider taking pictures, you know, like the TV ad says.

Mileage discrepancies are reported when the mileage doesn’t follow in sequence from one report to another.  The object here was to detect when the odometer was rolled back, which with modern electronic instruments is a lot more difficult.   A personal story – we wanted to trade a vehicle but its report showed a mileage discrepancy resulting in a serious reduction in car value (minus $1,300).  At an oil change before we owned the car, the quick change company posted the mileage as 132,000 instead of 82,000.  At the next service, the mileage was listed at 86,000, so a discrepancy was created.  The effect was we couldn’t trade the car until the error was corrected.  Thankfully, the company that made the error was local, but the effort still took over a week to settle.  The car value was increased $1,000.  

The lesson here is to check the mileage shown on any paperwork associated with vehicle maintenance.  Make sure it’s accurate.  Correcting errors on the spot is easy.  Correcting errors after the fact is a real pain that can easily be avoided.

Post script – If you are trading a relatively new vehicle, the cost of mileage error reports can be substantial.  One incident I know of involved a sports car.  The value deduction was over $10,000.  

Oh, Alabama car titles drop the vehicle mileage after the vehicle is 10 years old.  It’s only listed as exempt.

Gene Canavan is a retired West Point Graduate and Paper Mill Utilities Manager and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA.


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