These days, nearly all shoppers run CARFAX reports before buying a used car. Such reports can display nearly anything, from a car's previous location to details about its maintenance. Sometimes, however, they can be confusing. What, for example, is a "corporate fleet vehicle," which is displayed on many reports? And what's a "program car?" We have a few answers to help drivers understand these terms.

Corporate Fleet Vehicle

If you see "corporate fleet vehicle" on a report, you're forgiven for being worried. You probably think the car you're considering has been used as a rental car, a taxi, or in another situation where maintenance may not be the first priority. But don't worry: The designation of corporate fleet vehicle isn't necessarily a bad thing.

In most corporate fleet vehicle CARFAX designations, the vehicle was simply leased rather than purchased. The reason it displays as "corporate" is that a leasing company -- and not an individual -- technically owns the car. So most corporate fleet vehicles didn't see hard use as commercial vehicles but rather were normal leases that anyone could get from a dealership.

That said, some corporate fleet vehicles actually were used for business purposes. Sometimes CARFAX will note such cars were registered as "commercial vehicles," but that isn't always the case. Therefore, it's best to get a full mechanical inspection before making a purchase.

Program Car

If you've seen the term "program car" or "registered as a program vehicle" on CARFAX, this is different from a corporate fleet vehicle. Automakers usually drive program cars as company cars for their own employees. Sometimes these cars aren't titled, meaning they can drive several thousand miles before technically becoming "new" cars. That makes them a good deal for shoppers who want a new car at a good discount.

Program cars also may have been used as press vehicles or for automaker events. Since a car can gather early wear this way, we also recommend an inspection on any former program cars.

CARFAX Can't Be Perfect

One last reminder to shoppers: CARFAX reports aren't perfect. They can be a great tool for establishing your vehicle's history and discovering any past events from earlier drivers. But nothing can take the place of a mechanical inspection from a trusted mechanic.

Equifax and CARFAX both provide services to customers

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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