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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

CARFAX Canada: understanding registration, service records and open recalls sections

Feb 19

Friday, February 19, 2021  RssIcon

A CARFAX Canada Vehicle History Report (VHR)’s registration, service record, and open recall sections tell you about the condition of the car, how it’s been cared for and whether there are any defects associated with the model you are considering.

Shawn Vording, Vice President of Automotive Sales at CARFAX Canada, takes us through all three sections and points out what consumers need to pay attention to.

Understanding the registration section

Like Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO), CARFAX Canada classifies vehicle condition according to brand. The names may vary slightly between the Ministry and CARFAX ꟷ CARFAX Canada uses ‘normal’ to mean ‘none’ and ‘non-repairable to mean ‘irreparable’ ꟷ but the classifications meet the same criteria as MTO’s:

  • Non-repairable or irreparable: the vehicle can never be used on the road again; it can only be used for parts.
  • Salvaged: a salvaged vehicle has been written off as a total loss, but if it is repaired and passes a structural inspection test and is inspected by an authorized technician it can be rebranded as rebuilt.
  • Rebuilt: a repaired salvaged vehicle, after a passed structural test and inspection from an authorized technician, can be classified as rebuilt.
  • None or normal: this does not mean the vehicle has never been in an accident; it means the degree of damage is not enough to receive branding.

When talking about branding Vording says, “Essentially normal means good, and for anything outside of normal, it may mean that you want to think about it.”

Understanding the service records section

This section documents the vehicle’s maintenance history. When going through the section, you may notice some services have more details than others. For one entry, you may read “Vehicle serviced; brake inspection” while another entry may say “Vehicle serviced.” Inconsistent details don’t indicate the vehicle’s condition: it describes what information CARFAX Canada could get from service facilities. According to Vording, “the acquisition of service records has become a big area of focus for us in the last couple of years, as the quality of repair on vehicles improves so will the information about the service.”

CARFAX Canada is making progress in data acquisition, but the information available often depends on the repair shop, the technician and what information the technician records.

Vording advises in addition to understanding vehicle history reports, car-buyers should take two more steps: get the car inspected by a licensed mechanic you trust and take the car on a thorough test drive. “Those three areas combined are the diligence you want to put into making a big purchase like a car” Vording says.

Understanding the open recalls section

While Transport Canada’s website will tell you whether the year, make, and model of a vehicle had an open recall, it won’t share whether a recall has been fixed, but CARFAX Canada’s VHR will.

CARFAX runs checks on recalls right until the VHR has been date stamped. If a report was date-stamped on January 25th, 10:23 a.m., CARFAX Canada has checked for recalls up to that exact minute. Always check the date of your CARFAX Canada report to ensure you have the most accurate information.

Join us next week for the detailed history section

The detailed history section is the VHR’s most comprehensive piece. You get the full story of the car, from first owner to every event the vehicle has been through.

Need help now?

If you need help with interpreting your CARFAX Canada's history report, contact the CARFAX Canada's support team at 1-866-835-8612.

Have questions about your car-buying rights? Contact OMVIC's Consumer Support Services team at or call 1-800-943-6002. We are here to help.


As the regulator of motor vehicle sales in Ontario, OMVIC’s mandate is to maintain a fair and informed marketplace by protecting the rights of consumers, enhancing industry professionalism and ensuring fair, honest and open competition for registered motor vehicle dealers. Visit to learn more about your car-buying rights as well as additional tips for buying a car in Ontario. For car buying tips, check out the OMVIC Academy. You can view other resources such as multilingual videos and download the OMVIC Car-buying Guide

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