Verifying the shifty things people do to their cars is a tricky business, and AutoCheck knows it. Not every accident is reported, for a variety of reasons. Why report a little scraped paint and a dinged fender if you can tap out the bumps and spot-repair the paint? Why report a landscaping truck backing nearly over your hood if your brother can replace the front end at his shop after hours? He's got paint that will mostly match if you look at it under one of those sodium-yellow streetlamps. No biggie.
Consumer Reports did a check on AutoCheck and CarFax and found they both did a reasonably good job of reporting exactly what they promised -- but there were a few issues. They compared clean reports with pictures of the same cars on auction Web sites and found cars crumpled beyond recognition in some cases. "Wrecks can maintain clean titles if the vehicle doesn't have collision insurance, is self-insured as with many rental and fleet vehicles, or has damage falling below the 'total loss' threshold, which can vary by state," according to the report [source: Consumer Reports].
Despite that, Consumer Reports did recommend using automotive history reports, as well as a few other lesser-known sources, for checking out a car's sordid past:
There's also no way for you, dear consumer, to verify those happy green checkmarks on an AutoCheck report. However, you can -- and absolutely everyone recommends this, including Lynn Kator at AutoCheck -- take any used car you're seriously considering buying for an inspection by a professional.