How AutoCheck Works

Making the Grade

AutoCheck uses a bunch of sources to come up with its scores, including:

  • Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • Salvage and recycling yards
  • Dealer auctions
  • Police reports
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

"Automotive auctions in particular, where they're physically inspecting the vehicle," are good sources of specific information, Kator said.

Title Check: If the car's been salvaged, rebuilt or burned up in a fire, it'll show up on the title.

Odometer Check: If anyone's messed with the odometer at all, or if it's broken, it'll have been noted somewhere. Not even Ferris Bueller got away with odometer tampering on that Ferrari, remember. AutoCheck also alerts you if the miles seem suspiciously low, like a 1995 Toyota Camry with 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers). Doubt it.

Problem Check: Aren't they all problems? Specifically, this section looks for frame damage, water damage (hello, Hurricane Katrina!) and if the car has earned official lemon status.

Use and Event Check: This is where you find out if the car's been ridden hard and put away wet, as they say. Rental cars, police cars, taxis, and government-use vehicles may have seen some hard miles, but they've also been treated to regular maintenance, Kator pointed out. Cars that have been in accidents or stolen may not have been so pampered, but that'll show up here, too.

Of course, none of these checks take into account maintenance records or condition, like rips in the seat or stains on the carpet. Those are the kinds of things you're just going to have to see for yourself.

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