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Are all vehicle history reports created equal?

It's time to check it out! Often the one on one in the Automotive Digital world comes down to vs. So let's get off of that topic and look at this one.

Vehicle history reports, just like multiple photos and pricing, have become a core component of on-line vehicle merchandising. Carfax has been the only game in town for years and done a great job in building their brand and making the used car buyer aware of this great tool (the vehicle history report)
and the inforrmation it provides. Being the only game in town has also allowed them to establish their pricing in a non-competitive field. Dealers have been playing and paying. Now, Autocheck, another player is emerging. How is the growing presence of Autocheck going to effect Carfax: their product, their service and their pricing?

How will consumers react? Will consumers accept an Autocheck VHR with the same confidence as a Carfax VHR? Are they now? Will Autocheck be able to penetrate Carfax's OEM market?

Does Autocheck perform for the dealer as well as Carfax in terms of intergration and marketing?
Is their customer service strong?

While we have been with Carfax for many years my group is now taking a closer look at these two providers. What's your take? Has anyone switched recntly from Carfax to Autocheck or vice a versa?

I look forward to your comments.



Tags: Autocheck, Carfax, car, history, inventory, reports, used, vehicle

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Good question. The simple answer I would say is "NO". Autocheck is not as you said "Now, Autocheck, another player is emerging", they have been around for a long time. I think the fact that you use the term "emerging" proves a big point, no one knows them. One of the biggest points of using a vehicle history report is to build confidence in the consumers mind, be that a dealer or a dealers customer. If they haven’t heard of the Vehicle History provider the dealer is using, AutoCheck, then how confident can they be in what they are looking at? Now a dealer has to sell a used vehicle and a Vehicle History report.

Not only has CARFAX spent lots of money to build their brand but they have spent a lot of money to build a good product. CARFAX continues to spend money on their product to make it better, more user friendly and the most accurate source of data on a used vehicle. There is a reason that 27 manufacturers choose CARFAX for the Vehicle History provider for their CPO programs, I should say “preferred” provider for their CPO programs, not all “mandate” CARFAX but highly recommend it if they do not “require” it.

One other thing, when was the last time you saw an employee from Autocheck, not ADP or one of the other resllers of their product, in you dealership?

You might save money in the short term but not in the long.

In saying all this, if it were me, I would spend the extra $199 or $299 or $399, what every the spiff that Autocheck is running this week, and use both at my store. How many credit report agencies do you use?
It's funny... even though AutoCheck is backed by Experian (a very trustworthy name), their marketing for the service is definitely lacking, at least compared to CARFAX.

I too weighed both solutions for integrations with my site and the fact that CARFAX is more well known to consumers, works with more dealers and have data on more cars was what won me over.

I know you posted this comment over 6 months ago, but I just saw it for the first time and wanted to say that your analogy of using more than one vehicle history report provider to the situation where most dealers use 3 credit bureau suppliers is one of the smartest pieces of guidance I have seen in a long time... The recommendation makes a ton of sense and considering the stakes, I am surprised more dealers have not deployed multiple vehicle history reporting services.
I disagree. I have used both Auto Check and Car Fax, and I've had overlaps in service where I could use them at the same time. I never found a single car that had been in a wreck, or flood, hail, ect that both of them did not find. The difference is people trust CarFax. They have heard of it, they know it, and they trust it. Also, it works with every site/program out there that includes vehicle history (besides NADA eval. lol). Car fax does provide more infomation, in specific about Maint history.
Hi Chris,

To add to the comments of my fellow ADM members on the CarFax vs. AutoCheck issue I suggest the following points:

1) These applications are extremely consumer facing and the "Mind Share" and Market Share" earned by CarFax is DOMINANT and therefor much more credible. For that reason, at least for the foreseeable future, I have to recommend CarFax to the affiliated automotive advertising agencies and auto dealer/vendor clients of Ad Agency Online, L.L.C. - and I do!

2) Some processes - like credit applications - warrant having more than one solution. However, since there is no critical information differentiator - from the customer's perspective - between CarFax and AutoCheck the added expense and distraction to the customer would not be justified. The "redundant" expenses assigned to AutoCheck would be better invested in another vertical - like SEM PPC investments or other conversion tools and/or lead generators.

3) Sometimes, bigger actually is better! CarFax is BIGGER that AutoCheck in both the mind of the consumer and the dealer and to my knowledge CarFax has been extremely co-operative when integrating with my vendor clients. Untill and unless they drop the ball or get too big for their britches - like AutoTrader.Com - I see no reason to dilute my loyalty or my dealer/clients investments in CarFax.

4) The business model and related marketing plan for CarFax extends into reseller agreements, shared applications and their own staff in both sales and support. AutoCheck seems to exist through their resellers which evidences their lack of resources which will undoubtedly limit their services and support vs. CarFax.

Simply put - if it aint broke don't fix it and CarFax aint broke!
Has anyone else seen that AutoCheck is now advertising better data than Carfax? According to the press release:

", quantitative analysis conducted by Pipal Research - an independent, custom research firm - used vehicle history reports from Experian's AutoCheck® contain two times the number of reported accidents as vehicle history reports from Carfax, another vehicle history report brand. This means that it is more likely that a report from AutoCheck would show an accident in the vehicle's past, giving car buyers more of the information they need to make an educated purchase decision."

It seems to me that a lot of folks were using Carfax because of branding with customers to gain trust. But what about now? Doesn't it seem like AutoCheck would be an obvious pick-up if it's cheaper and has more data? A lot of the dealers I used to work with would tell me that they felt like Carfax gave them additional "advertising" exposure. I always felt like I had to explain to them that the carryover was nothing compared to just taking that budget and allocating it to site advertising themselves (but of course I am also biased).

What does everyone else think?
I am embarassed to confess that in this situation - customer perception wins! Until and unless customers recognize the proposed advantage of AutoCheck over CarFax I will have to advise my dealer clients to stick with the stronger "closing tool." Unfortunately, the dealer may be writing the check but the reason is to assure the customer in their buying decision and they are writing the check that counts!

Sorry, but CarFax is the icon and it will take a lot of time and money for AutoCheck - or anyone else - to knock them off of their perch; justified or not!
I'm a sales guy. No one asks me for autocheck. On the other hand I am frequently asked to see a CarFax report.

As a selling tool, Carfax is the recognized standard.
The auctions in my area all use Autocheck, I am guessing because of the fact that previous damage shows up more with them. I have long held that Carfax is a waste of money, because the main information a customer is looking for, previous damage to a vehicle, is hit and miss. I have seen more than one vehicle with frame damage, mismatched panels, etc. that Carfax claims has not been in any accidents. Carfax has done a great job branding themselves by making customers believe they are providing a valuable service, even though many times the information is wrong.

So I guess in reality Carfax is a benefit to a dealer, letting a dealer sell damaged vehicles to the public while assuring the customer they aren't damaged, because it's not listed on the Carfax. I always share my thoughts about Carfax with my customers when they ask for one, I am happy to pull it for them, but tell them the only real facts are generally ownership and where the car has been titled.
It's great to see that this post is still kicking over 10 months later. After a period of debate and research our group did stay with Carfax. We looked at many vehicle reports side by side and did not see enough discrepancies to push us one way or the other. So what drove our decision? We spoke with our customers and our sales staff in the front lines and as Matt and Phil have said the public is just not aware of Autocheck. We spoke with each vendor and looked at what they were doing to support and promote their product. From day one Carfax has done a great job with their product and their brand and they continue to improve on all levels whether it is marketing to consumers, driving traffic, dealer services and support, or data integration. Most importantly they proved to be a vendor who listens to and works with their customers and that is critical in every successful business relationship.

So while all vehicle history reports may be equal their providers may not be. Like Matt says, and I think I heard it somewhere else before, "Show me the Carfax".

Seems to me that when people ask for a Carfax they are actually asking for a Vehicle History Report.  We are going to test both now that I know Carfax is increasing prices April 1st, 2012. Autocheck is 1/3 the price and equally reliable according to the threads here. We think if you offer the VHR upfront that consumers will not ask for a Carfax and thus we provide the information they request but at much less expense to us and still maintain a solid product and relationship.


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