Carfax vs. AutoCheck: Which Vehicle History Tool is Right for Your Dealership

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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?

Carfax and Autocheck are two of the most popular vehicle history reports on the market. They have won over as many raving fans as naysayers. Is one really better than the other?

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

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

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 vs. Autocheck popularity

Google Trends report comparing the search traffic for Carfax (blue) and AutoCheck (red)

Clearly, this gives dealers an advantage when making a sale. They don’t need to explain Carfax. In fact, customers might ask for it outright. Which means the second advantage to Carfax is…

Pro: Higher Consumer Trust

Customers simply trust a Carfax report over basically anything else. Is Carfax actually more trustworthy? Not necessarily. In fact, many dealers think Autocheck is more accurate, but essentially they provide the same information.

Still, anything that makes a customer more comfortable with their purchase is a big plus.

Pro: Open Recall and Guaranteed Buyback

Carfax has a few features that Autocheck doesn’t, namely open recalls and a guaranteed buyback program. Open recall is a service for dealers to announce vehicle recalls. Tools like VinCue also offer this service, so not every dealer needs this functionality built into their vehicle history tool.

The Guaranteed Buyback program is Carfax’s return policy. If they made 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 there’s the option.

Con: Expensive

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

AutoCheck might be less well known, but it doesn’t mean it’s not a great product. AutoCheck comes with a number of advantages, including…

Pro: Owned by Experian

AutoCheck is owned by Experian, the international credit report company. This is not a dinky, third-rate service. AutoCheck is backed by a world-class company with experience in this type of reporting.

Some of AutoCheck’s features are clearly inspired by their parent company. One of their unique features is…

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.

AutoCheck Score

The AutoCheck Score is like a credit score for cars. The higher the score, the better shape the vehicle is in. 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. The best part of AutoCheck is that you get all of this for an incredible price.

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 is 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 sales people 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 sales people should be able to overcome this by educating customers.

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 vehicle history reports, Carfax and AutoCheck are equals. They both do a really good job, which just a few features on either side to differentiate them. On quality, we’ll call this debate a wash.

Carfax wins handily in the court of public opinion. It has a massive lead in consumer recognition and brand trust. Carfax has done a much better job marketing, plus they have been around longer than AutoCheck. The advantage here is that salespeople don’t need to educate consumers on Carfax. They know what it is and trust it. It’s one less thing dealerships have to worry about.

However, all that name recognition comes at a price– a big one. Carfax is several times more expensive than Autocheck, and it’s debatable what value you’re really getting. Good salespeople can overcome objections about AutoCheck fairly easily. Plus, as an Experian company, they definitely carry some clout.

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 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 appraisal tool. With that in mind, you really can’t go wrong choosing either report.