There is wisdom in saving money by buying a used car instead of making the commitment to pay more for something new, except that the story behind a used car should always be met with suspicion. You can only put so much trust in a car salesperson, so it's better to do background checks yourself to get the truth.
Renowned for its ruthless efficiency, CarProof is a site that will almost certainly shed light on the details of a car's life in both Canada and the United States. Indeed, using just a VIN, CarProof can trace back to where and when the car was manufactured, what its insurance and collision history is, odometer record and whether there is a lien or security interest filed against it.
This kind of sleuthing comes at a price, however, and CarProof charges $34.95 for a report detailing everything involving claims, but leaving out the lien and security interest side. A comprehensive "Verified BC" report covers every detail for $64.95.
Where all this comes in handy is in refuting claims made by sellers, such as suggesting the car only had a minor fender bender, yet CarProof shows a major accident with a $10,000 insurance claim. What exact damage the car has isn't always noted, but it's enough of a warning sign to think about making the purchase.
CarFax is an American site, but you can also order a report anywhere in Canada to get a better sense of the true condition of the used car you're looking at. A single CarFax report costs $34.99, but five only costs $10 more.
Where CarFax really separates itself is in the search portion of the site. Click "Find a Car" and you can put in the year, make and model of the car you're looking for, plus your postal code and the radius from your location. It finds all the dealers within that range who have posted that particular car for sale offering a free CarFax report. Some are also labelled "1-Owner" to signify that only one owner has owned or leased the vehicle.
Of course, this isn't limited to just CarFax's site, since dealers also include CarFax reports in sites like AutoTrader.ca and UsedCarsCanada.com. The FAQ section also opens up some other doors on what CarFax is able to do for you.
This site has an entire section devoted to comparisons with CarFax, and some of the features do seem appealing. A couple that stand out include unlimited reports for $44.99, and twice the number of reported accidents, though the latter one is based on a study in the U.S. that compared data from both sites.
AutoCheck differentiates itself from the others by offering information on cars up for auction and something called "Buyback Protection." Cars that dealers bought at auctions are open for scrutiny. In addition, Buyback Protection would cover the cost of any eligible car plus aftermarket accessories, except the fine print indicates that U.S. residents are the only ones who can take advantage of this option.
Like the others, AutoCheck will highlight things like odometer rollbacks, engine refurbs and whether a car has the dreaded status of being a lemon. But it adds a few extra tidbits openly like water and fire damage - including what to look for when inspecting a prospective car yourself.
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