InstaVin Vs CarFax

Posted in Oilfield Family Finances

InstaVin Vs CarFax

Is your oilfield family in need of a used car? Our family recently purchased a used SUV which we found online. Now, as with any used car, we had reservations about the one we eventually decided to buy. We compared prices for similar vehicles in the same model year range, checked out plenty of online photos, read consumer reviews for the brands we considered, and talked to car-savvy friends and relatives to get their input. The SUV we found had very low miles compared to others in the same price and year range. We were a little suspicious.

Still, we decided to check out the vehicle and take it for a test drive. It looked great, seemed to be in top mechanical shape, and there were no big problems. We found a few minor dings and scrapes on the body, but that’s to be expected with any used car that has a few years under its belt. The low mileage was very appealing, and it was a feature that the seller repeated over and over. Why did this particular SUV have such low mileage? We found out as soon as we looked at the license plates: the vehicle had apparently been sitting dormant for a number of years, as the latest registration tag was from three years before.

We needed to check the vehicle out further. Now, the obvious choice for in-depth used vehicle “background checks” is CarFax. However, CarFax charges $39.99 for a used car report. That’s not only excessive, it’s downright, well – “highway robbery” (pun intended). Unfortunately, CarFax is the service that people think of first when they decide to order reports for used vehicles. Thank the CarFax marketing folks, who obviously are very good at what they do. It’s a fair bet that advertising costs are a big reason why CarFax reports are so expensive. (Ok, so in the InstaVin vs CarFax debate, score one for CarFax: marketing).

There’s a better way. You can order reports from a number of different services that subscribe to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The NMVTIS owes its existence to the Federal Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992, which was set up to protect the public from fraudulent used car sales as well as from vehicles deemed to be unsafe. The NMVTIS database is handled by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), and is regulated by the US Department of Justice. The NMVTIS is the only vehicle history database where all states, insurance carriers, and junk salvage yards enter their data, which they are required to do by law.

For the used SUV we wanted to buy, we decided to get a report from, which charges a fraction of what CarFax does. For $6.99, you can get all of the information you’d see on a CarFax report, and probably a few things you won’t, since CarFax reports don’t necessarily list all of the records available for some vehicles.

The next time you’re in the market for used vehicles, skip the CarFax gouge machine. You can still check out any vehicles that you’re interested in by ordering reports from InstaVin (our favorite) or other services that access the NMVTIS database.