Updated July 30, 2020
For good or bad, most car buyers today refuse to take a car dealer at their word, especially when it comes to buying a used car. Vehicle history reports are virtually non-negotiable in today’s world of ultra-transparent deals. Which leaves dealers with a sticky question: Should they choose Carfax or Autocheck?
We’ll let you decide. Let’s look at the pros and cons of Carfax vs. Autocheck so you can choose which one is right for your dealership.
Carfax: Pros and Cons
Founded in 1984, Carfax is the original used vehicle history report. As the first tool on the market, they have a number of key advantages, such as…
Pro: Name Recognition & Higher Consumer Trust
Carfax is by far the most well-known vehicle history tool by consumers. Most of us remember the Super Bowl commercial with the fox teaching us to say, “Show me the Carfax.”
In fact, when we look at Google Trends, we can see just how dominant Carfax is over Autocheck. This chart shows the relative number of Google searches for each term over the last year (Carfax is in blue).
The popularity of CarFax gives dealers an advantage when making a sale. They don’t need to explain to a customer what Carfax is. In fact, customers might ask for it outright.
Pro: Maintenance & Service History
Carfax and Autocheck reports actually contain a lot of the same information. However, Carfax is the only one that provides you with a vehicle’s maintenance history.
That’s huge, since it gives you an idea of how well a car has been taken care of. You’ll also be able to see any repairs it may have needed in the past.
The catch: not every service center collects and shares these records. It’s likely you won’t be looking at a vehicle’s entire service history. Still, this information can give you valuable insight into its current condition.
Pro: Level of Detail
There’s more to Carfax’s popularity than just clever advertising. The level of detail in their reports has also helped establish them as the biggest name in the game.
Carfax’s data comes from over 100,000 sources across the US and Canada. These sources include motor vehicle agencies, car dealerships, police and fire departments, insurance companies, and more. Using this network, Carfax has managed to build a database containing almost 18 billion records.
Another reason their reports are so popular with consumers is that they’re easy to understand. They break complicated information down into easy-to-read sections that can be easily understood by any car buyer.
Carfax is able to charge a premium thanks to their name recognition and consumer trust levels. Many dealers are willing to pay the price, which can be several times more expensive than Autocheck.
Carfax is fairly tight-lipped about their wholesale prices, but on the consumer side, they charge $39.99 for 1 report and $99.99 for 6 reports. Autocheck gives you 300 reports for $99.99.
This is certainly a disadvantage, but it doesn’t mean the price isn’t worth it for some dealers. Having Carfax on your lot can certainly make sales easier, but it’s probably not a definitive factor.
AutoCheck: Pro and Cons
AutoCheck is owned by Experian, the international credit report company. It might be less well known, but it is still an excellent product. AutoCheck comes with a number of advantages, including…
Pro: AutoCheck Score
The patented AutoCheck Score is a number between 70 and 90 that gives you a quick idea of a vehicle’s history. An AutoCheck Score is affected by accidents, mileage, damage, and whether the vehicle was ever stolen, repossessed, or used as a police car or taxi.
The AutoCheck Score is like a credit score for cars. The higher the score, the better the history. It also tells you how similar vehicles scored in comparison.
Along with providing top-of-the-line history reports, the AutoCheck Score is a pretty cool feature. It provides a glimpse into a vehicle’s condition that’s helpful for both dealers and customers.
Pro: Auction Data
There are certain pieces of information that matter a whole lot more to dealers than to your average buyer. Case in point: Autocheck’s auction data.
Unlike Carfax, Autocheck has exclusive access to auction data reports from Manheim and Adesa. This gives dealers a more retail-centric view of a vehicle’s history.
Auction data can be a game-changer for used car dealers looking to make better sourcing decisions. This alone can make Autocheck a more appealing option for dealers than Carfax.
Pro: Low Cost
Like we mentioned above, AutoCheck can be several times cheaper than Carfax. Even at retail price, you can get 300 AutoCheck reports for the same price as 6 Carfax reports.
If you’re willing to forego the name recognition, choosing AutoCheck is a no-brainer from a price standpoint. But of course, name recognition cannot be fully discounted, which leads us to our con for Autocheck.
Con: Lack of Name Recognition
Choosing AutoCheck over Carfax will not tank your sales. In fact, if you train your salespeople correctly, it might have no effect at all. But AutoCheck is certainly a harder path to take. Your salespeople will have to educate customers on the value of AutoCheck.
The lack of name recognition also leads to lower brand trust. Again though, good salespeople should be able to overcome through customer education.
In short, the lack of name recognition can be mitigated, but could become a burden without the proper sales training.
The Verdict: Carfax vs. AutoCheck
The jury is still out on the better vehicle history tool, and honestly, a decision might never be made. Which tool you use depends on the way you run your dealership.
First, let’s state the most important fact: When it comes to quality of vehicle history reports, Carfax and AutoCheck are virtually equal. They both do a really good job, differentiated by just a few features on either side.
Both Carfax and AutoCheck come with Buyback Protection as well. If either makes a mistake on a vehicle history report, they will buy your vehicle back from you. This adds another level of trust for consumers, but as you can imagine, proving a mistake is extremely difficult. Buybacks rarely happen, but it’s nice to know the option exists.
If you have the money to spend and want to give your salespeople the easiest path to a sale, then Carfax might be the tool for you. However, if you want to save big money and you trust your salespeople to do a good job, then Autocheck is a no-brainer.
Both Carfax and AutoCheck sync up with your VINCUE account, giving you vehicle history information right inside your car appraisal tool. With that in mind, you really can’t go wrong choosing either report.
Want to see our other auto dealership tool comparisons? Check out: