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CARFAX Terms Defined

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 AutoTrader.com customers

Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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6 COMMENTS

    • Technically yes – body shops are not always religious in reporting them. For example my dealer oil changes show up on carfax but not the local shop oil changes. Not sure if its required by law to report all accident repairs

  1. i’m looking at an A4 Avant. The Carfax says the first 4 months it was a “commercial vehicle” and was driven 4,400 miles in that time. Does anyone have any idea how an A4 Avant would be used as a “commercial vehicle”?

  2. Carfax offer defaults to “unlimited” reports. However, this is not unlimited VIN it is only unlimited by plate number. Don’t be fooled. The offers are 1. (1) report 2. (5) reports 3. unlimited by plate NOT Vin number. You can cancel after receiving 2 reports. So if you want to get two FREE reports, activate the unlimited service but then cancel it after opening only 2 reports.
    Also read other reviews where the reports are not helpful and may not report serious issues with the vehicle you are interested in. In fact, a vehicle I purchased new had 5000 miles at first reported service. However, carfax reported this as 50,000 miles. I ended up purchasing a vehicle that showed a clean report but actually had major damage to the passenger side. Replacing a cracked headlight alone cost me $1000. In addition, carfax does not offer a phone number to call for addressing your customer service issues. GOOD LUCK

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