Car-veat Emptor: Used Car Shoppers, Do Your Research

CarGurus Study Finds 1 in 6 Used Cars for Sale Has an Accident History

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., December 12, 2012 -- Car shoppers looking to save money by buying a used car instead of a new one will want to take note of findings from a recent study by auto shopping site CarGurus (, which indicate that roughly one in six (16%) used cars listed for sale in the U.S. shows an accident history on record. CarGurus analysts also found that one in five (22%) used car listings was identified as a former fleet-owned vehicle, and as such was twice as likely to have an accident on record as vehicles formerly owned by individuals. The findings underscore just how important it is for consumers to research the vehicle history of a used car prior to purchase.

“There is great savings potential in buying a used car, but there’s also the potential to get burned if you don’t do your homework,” said Langley Steinert, founder and CEO of CarGurus. “A minor accident or prior fleet ownership does not have to be a deal breaker, but it is information you absolutely need to know as you consider the purchase and the price.”

CarGurus’ free car shopping tool helps consumers quickly account for vehicle history in their online car search by factoring the accident and ownership records of listings into the search algorithm it uses to value and rank listings according to which are the best deals.

Given the likelihood that a used car has been in an accident, CarGurus editors recommend that consumers always buy the vehicle history report for a car prior to settling on a price. The report is typically available for around $40, and some services offer packages with unlimited vehicle queries. Making a deal contingent on a final inspection by an independent, unbiased local mechanic (typically around $200) is also wise.

CarGurus Vehicle History Study Highlights

Accident history

  • 16% of all listings studied had an accident incident on record
  • 8% of recent models (2009-2011) had an accident incident on record
  • The effect of an accident history on the market value of the cars studied was highly variable by car, resulting in values that were 3% to 12% lower than those of comparable cars without an accident history, according to CarGurus’ valuation models.

Fleet ownership history

  • 22% of all models with available history records were identified as fleet vehicles, indicating prior ownership by a business or agency rather than an individual
  • 35% of recent models (2009-2011) were formerly fleet vehicles
  • 49% of 2011 models were formerly fleet vehicles
  • Fleet vehicles were twice as likely as non-fleet vehicles to have a reported accident history.


For this study, CarGurus analyzed the vehicle history reports on 2 million car listings that were advertised for sale by dealers and private sellers on the CarGurus website in 2012. Vehicle history data was acquired through a third-party provider that gathers data from sources including state DMVs, salvage yards, auction companies, police reports and other independent sources. The study did not distinguish between minor and major accidents on record, nor did it distinguish between fleet vehicles owned by rental companies and other business entities.

CarGurus’ free listings search tool helps users search and compare available car listings from their desktop or mobile device and quickly identify the best deals in their local area, ranked in order from great deals to overpriced deals. The company analyzes millions of car listings daily to calculate the Instant Market Value (IMV) of a vehicle and determine whether a listed car is a great, good, fair or overpriced deal compared to similar available listings in a local market. This analysis takes into account specific details including make, model, trim, year, mileage, options, location and vehicle history.

About CarGurus

CarGurus ( is a leading online automotive destination focused on bringing transparency to the car research and shopping experience. CarGurus' free listings search tool analyzes prices on millions of available cars and enables consumers to quickly find the best local deals from the best-rated dealerships. Unlike many other listings sites, the search results rankings are unbiased by listings providers.

Located in Cambridge, Mass., CarGurus was founded by Langley Steinert, co-founder and former chairman of TripAdvisor. More than 4 million users visit CarGurus a month to research and shop for new and used cars, making CarGurus one of the top 15 most trafficked automotive research sites in the U.S. market.

Amy Mueller