Should I demand service records and a Carfax report before seeing a used vehicle?

jukhamiljukhamil San Anselmo, CAMember Posts: 1
edited April 2016 in General
I've been trying to buy a used car on Craigslist. After browsing, when I find something I'm looking for, I contact the owner. Some of them live a good 1-2 hours drive away, so I'd like some confirmation that the vehicle is in the condition they claim it's in before I go to inspect it, test-drive it and bring it to a mechanic. So far, my demands aren't being met - people claim they don't have them in hand, or they can't email them because they're paper. Should I walk away from these offers, or is it not practical to expect people to provide this information? Is it worth my time to drive an hour away to take a car to a mechanic that might need thousands of dollars of repairs and isn't worth my time at all?
Should my filtering process in finding a vehicle be demanding the Carfax report and service records?
Thank you.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think that's asking a lot of a seller, and they might be put off by it. Of course, you have a perfect right to ask, but CARFAX costs money and unless it's a dealer, most people are not going to spend $29 bucks to please just you. A shrewd seller WOULD spend that up front and then send the CARFAX to whomever wanted it. Service records could amount to a fairly large stack of papers, so scanning and e-mailing them could be a burden for someone.

    I would suggest asking them if they have service records to look at, certainly. No records at all? Not a good sign.

    I always look for the type of seller who right up front goes the extra mile. They have lots of photos, they are offering a good amount of useful information in the advert, and they return your call promptly and answer all your questions. Anyone who won't even talk to you ("just e-mail me!") is just being either rude or evasive IMO.

    After you have a conversation with a seller, you can get a pretty good idea if the trip is going to be worth your time.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    Scanning though is easy with a digital camera and most people have one or a camera on their cell. That's replaced my "Xerox" machine. Still a hassle but like Shifty says, you need to find the right seller.

    Another thing you can do is ask for the VIN - sometimes that shows interesting stuff up on a net search. At the least you can look up outstanding recalls.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I just checked my car's folder. I have about 18 informative maintenance receipts. Am I going to scan 18 receipts for a buyer?


    But when I sell my car, I'll have lots of photos on Dropbox, and I might summarize those receipts on a list if someone asks. I'd also post the VIN, so that the buyer can look it up on CARFAX if they choose.

  • carboy21carboy21 Member Posts: 760
    Buying on Craiglist is like playing russian roulette. It is hit or miss. Best is to get a trusted mechanic to check out the car before buying. Most of us don't keep service records unless it is within warranty.
    Carfax and a checkup with a mechanic is the best option . OR buy a CPO from a dealer.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    edited April 2016
    I don't even trust CPOs - too many stories of CPO'd cars with mismatched tires, dirty air filters, etc. Those 170 point checklists seem to be treated as jokes by some dealers.

    As you say, the best practice is to get a pre-purchase inspection.
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 10,058
    I don't supply service records-too much personal info. 
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    edited April 2016
    If we took in a trade that had a glove box loaded with service receipts we were required to throw them away over privacy concerns. Sometimes a customer would proudly hand us a thick file of service records. We would tell them that they could keep them or we would be happy to have them shredded.

    Also, service records can sometimes "queer" a sale if a nervous shopper sees something that scares them such as a body shop repair for what really amounted to nothing.

    Car Faxes are far from reliable. They report things as problems that were of little significance and they miss things too.

    Lastly, if I knew I had a nice car that was going to sell quickly, I would blow off a picky shopper that I felt could cause me problems. I like happy buyers and when selling one of my cars, I tell them EVERYTHING I know. If they get scared off, so be it!
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 207,899
    I was looking at a $3500 BMW, and the used car dealer let me look at the file folder that the previous owner had given them, along with the car. Previous owner had the car for about 2 years, and had all the work done at an independent BMW specialist. Total receipts for the previous 24 months were about $4000. Gulp.

    I probably wasn't going to buy that car, anyway, and I'm not necessarily surprised at those numbers. But, I think it had the opposite effect on me than what he had hoped.

    It's great to see that someone has taken care of a car, but it's sobering sometimes to see how much you might have to spend.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    When I recently sold our BMW 325i convertible I had a thick file folder of receipts both from me and the previous owner. Had the buyer asked for them I would have been happy to hand them over. Doing so could have cost me the sale since some of those numbers were HUGE!


    People who are worried about maintenance costs should never own an European car!
  • carboy21carboy21 Member Posts: 760
    People who are worried about maintenance costs should never own an European car!

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    quod erat demonstrandum (which was to be demonstrated). Urban dictionary calls this "a mathematician's way of saying 'I win! ' "
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