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Carfax? Man, That’s Old School

Posted in Car Auctions, Car Buying, Car Deals, Used Cars by Kurt Ernst | July 10th, 2010 | 3 Responses |

'You can trust me. I'm in sales.'

Sure, Carfax is a good service, and I’ve used it for years to get general information on cars I’m looking to buy or give advice on. It’s not infallible, and it can’t tell you about accidents that weren’t reported to the police or the insurance company. The big problem with the service is that it requires a computer with internet access, something you’re not likely to have handy on a dealer’s lot.

Autopia discovered a few handy apps for smartphones and mobile devices, that may just give you the info you need on site to make a deal or walk away from one.

InstaVin allows you to text a VIN to 46782 (INSTA, of course), and for a $2.99 fee ($1.99 for your first report) the company will text you back a vehicle accident history report, as well as a real time local market value for the vehicle. If you want details on ownership history, title and registration, odometer readings and state inspection reports, InstaVin offers those as well, but for an additional fee of $6.99. No one said that accurate, real time data was cheap.

VIN Hunter, an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, allows you to decode a car’s VIN to determine things like original color, original engine, factory installed options and trim level. It gives you a retail price, although it doesn’t claim to be based on local market data, and allows a one click purchase of a CarFax vehicle history report. VIN Hunter also allows you to rank vehicles being looked at (and include a thumbnail image), useful if you’re shopping for a specific year, make and model.

There are plenty of other apps available (Auto VIN Decoder, Vehicle VIN Search, VIN Report, etc.) but these are just pass though apps to purchase a Carfax report. Surprisingly enough, Carfax doesn’t have an app for smartphones, which is either an opportunity for an app developer or an extreme lack of foresight on behalf of Carfax.

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3 Responses

  1. dman says:

    Carfax is not infallible even with an accident reported to insurance and police. I sold a car with 15K worth of damage that came up clean on carfax. I told the guy buying it that is was in accident.
    never trust a piece of paper.
    Use your eyes and fingers. Open the hood and look for oversprayed bolts and mismatched bolts. Feel along the engine bay, door jams, and trunk for tell tale tape marks.(paint will clump where the paint touched the tape. pull the carpet back from trunk and look at the wheel wells an average body shop will not do a good job inside the trunk because it is covered by the carpet. Check the gaps in body panels for mismatched spacing. (although v8 rearwheel drive cars will have flexed over their life anyway)
    Check the airbag locations for signs of deployment like pieces that dont quite fit.
    Good luck and buyer beware.

  2. Kurt Ernst says:

    Good tips dman – thanks!

  3. I’ll have to agree with dman above. Insurance companies don’t always give their info to Carfax either which is also an issue.