First Published: The Sun-Herald
Monday, August 6, 2001
The days of speedo clocking and other used car frauds are under threat from the internet.
By BOB JENNINGS
The internet is providing used car buyers in the US with a potent new weapon against the shonks. It works like this: anyone can log on to a website and key in the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the vehicle they're thinking about buying.
Back will come information about the history of its odometer reading (so you can tell if it's been wound back, or "clocked" as it's known in the trade), whether it's been involved in an accident, and in some instances, even details of its service record.
The information will also give a much clearer indication of whether the car has been stolen, and what financial encumberances there might be on it.
Some basic information is free; more detailed information costs the consumer $US14.95 ($29.60) and for $19.95 ($39.50) the consumer can have access to the site for three months.
In the more detailed report, there may be information on possible odometer fraud, whether a vehicle had been used commercially and whether it was damaged in a fire or a flood.
The system is called Carfax, which is a division of the automotive statististics research company, R.J. Polk Automotive, which also operates in Australia compiling sales and pricing data for the automotive industry.
"We would like to be able to make this sort of information available in Australia; it's a good service," a Polk spokesman said.
"Although we are in comunication with registration authorities and the Bureau of Statistics, we don't have any short term plans to introduce a system like Carfax. But that's not to say we wouldn't do it in the longer term, and already some of our general information is in the public domain through used car automotive websites," he said.
In the US, Carfax has more than 1.4 billion records compiled from more than 170 separate sources, including motor vehicle departments in the US and Canada, emissions inspection stations, car auctions, fire and police departments, and insurance companies.
Its research includes accident reports and, increasingly, car company recall notices.
About 20 million people are expected to visit the Carfax.com site this year, and about three-quarters of them are expected to buy a used car, according to Richard Raines, the company's chief executive.
The company was formed in the early 1980s as a resource for dealers to check the titles on used cars acquired at auctions or as trade-ins. However, the service was expanded in 1996 to provide online information to consumers.
The site has information on nearly 900 million vehicles in the US that were in operation during the last two decades Ė at any given time, there are about 240 million vehicles on the road across the country but the Carfax total also includes cars and trucks that have been scrapped.
Without paying a fee, site visitors can get a simple answer about whether there are any problems with the vehicle, although no specifics are provided. On payment of the fee, site users are able to access the more detailed report on which there may be information on possible odometer fraud, whether a vehicle had been used commercially and whether it was damaged in a fire or a flood.
A search can turn up vehicles damaged by the North Carolina floods after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, for example, Mr Raines said.
The Carfax report can detect whether a VIN number is valid or false, as is possible in the case of a stolen car. It can also determine if a vehicle has been rebuilt after having been written off in an accident, if it has been used in a car company crash test, if it has failed an emissions inspection, or if it was shipped illegally into the US.
The report also says whether a vehicle has been used as a lease, rental or corporate car. And it states where and when the vehicle was registered, allowing a potential owner to see how many times its ownership has changed hands.
Mr Raines is pushing for further information such as access to routine repair information from dealers and service stations, to enable Carfax to say whether a car's owner has followed a regular maintenance schedule.
Sounds like a good idea.
Signatures are for poofs !!
1993 EBII Fairmont Ghia 5.0L Wagon,
Lowered, Tinted, 17" Speedy Ravens & 2.5" Sports Exhaust.
( 1 of 26 built )
1985 Telstar TX5 Turbo, stock as a rock.