Tell me about Car Fax & help me with this mystery.

I’m not in the market for a used car, but I got an odd phone call yesterday.

This guy tells me he’s looking at a used car and the Car Fax report says I was the last (and only) owner and if I could tell him about the car and any problems I had.

The odd part is, the Car Fax report says I just traded the car in July of this year when in fact I traded that car in September of 2007, almost 2 years ago. There is no mention of any other owner (the report specifically says there was only one owner). He said there is no mention of it being at auction after the trade or anything. It indicates where I bought it new, and that I traded it in at the dealership he was at. (FYI I did not trade it in at the same dealer I bought it at, and I owned the car outright, no lien and it was not a lease).
The car now has over 4000 miles more than it had when I traded it.

The guy was looking at the car at the same dealership I traded it in, which I also find odd. The car was already over 3 years old when I traded it. I can’t imagine a dealer keeping a used 3 year old used car around that long, and putting 4k on it to boot. Plus, I’ve been to that dealership a couple times since the trade. I would have spotted that car in the used lot quite easily.

I talked to the guy about 15 minutes and am quite certain that he was on the level. I am, however, quite perplexed at the report saying I just recently traded that car in, and the extra miles on it. Where the heck was it all this time? And is the Car Fax service just bullshit or what?:confused:

Could have been used as a courtesy car. I’ve been to dealerships where I knew they kept a few late model, used cars as “courtesy cars” for customers. When it became too old to be a courtesy car, they just sold them. The cars were never technically titled, since any time they were used, they had dealer plates on them.

Yeah, but then what’s up with the fishy trade in date? I mean, if the dealer accepted it years ago, why would the car fax say it was only traded in last year?

Cars sometimes get sold in other states where things don’t have to be reported, although that is usually accompanied by a rolling back of the mileage…

WAG: It can’t wear dealer plates as a used car, only if it is “in house” as a loaner so the trade in was only reported when it was placed for sale.

Perhaps he is looking at the carfax report the dealer ran 2 years ago when you traded it in, but he hasn’t noticed the date?

Even though they supposedly get data from all but two states, in my experience CarFax reports are rarely complete. A lot of states’ DMV systems are not especially well organized and so the CarFax reporting is not automatic, so it all depends on if that particular office is doing it or not. Also, certain transactions (i.e a new title issue) might be reported, whereas another (a simple transfer) might not.

It is kind of funny that the car is for sale at that same lot two years later. I think the courtesy car idea is a possibility, but also you’d be surprised at how long some larger dealerships will hold on to newer used cars (3 years old ain’t old), especially considering how slow things have been for the past year and a half or so. It’d be unusual but not unheard of for the car to have racked up 4,000 miles just sitting on the lot if it was used for a go-'fer car and/or got run over to other dealerships.

Another possibility is that some car dealers have budget rental sidelines where they rent out some of their used car fleet, although I don’t know what the title issues with that would be.

This would make sense to me except it’s a Ford dealership and the car I traded was an Oldsmobile. I’ve seen courtesy cars at this dealership and they’ve always been new Ford demos, like Fusion and Focus. Usually trade-ins get put on a dealers used lot or taken to the auto auction. But this happens right away, not 2 years later.

And why would that report say I just traded it in July of '09 when I traded it in September of '07? Usually trade-ins get put on a dealers used lot or taken to the auto auction. But this happens right away, not 2 years later.

I would urge you to not consider carfax the bible of a car’s history. While carfax makes an effort to compile a complete report of a car’s history, it relies on numerous third parties to fill it in. The data is rarely complete and sometimes outright fraud.

I imagine some dealer in the chain of custody failed to fill out the paperwork.

Can’t speak to the fraud aspect but yep, the reports are NOT all that reliable.

When we sold our Caravan 3 years ago, I pulled a Carfax report just to make sure there were no surprises. It omitted the one accident the car had been in. And reported an accident, with significant damage, that the car had NOT been in (in a part of the state we’d never visited with the car).

In their defense, they did remove the accident from the report when I contacted them (and of course I did disclose the one that it had been in).