Buying used cars is definitely a smart move if you’re looking for value. According to NerdWallet, a car’s value depreciates by up to 30% just in the first year, with most cars losing 60% or more of their initial value in just 5 years. For DIY mechanics or anyone looking for a bargain, letting someone else take the depreciation hit makes a lot of sense! Unfortunately, not all used cars are equal when it comes to value, and it can be hard to tell a great deal from a lemon if you don’t know what to look for. Luckily for you, we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn the signs that a used car has been in an accident.
How to Tell if a Used Car Has Been in an Accident
Run a Carfax report.
Isn’t it great to live in the age of the internet? Carfax is a vehicle history reporting service that can give you the inside scoop on the history of most used cars in the U.S. A vehicle history report can tell you if the vehicle has been involved in a (documented) accident, has been recalled by the manufacturer, and even the service history, as well as a list of former owners, among other things.
Examine the car for irregularities.
While Carfax reports are an important tool for any used car buyer, you should also keep your eyes peeled for other telltale signs that a used car has been in an accident. It’s not unheard of for a seller to attempt to pull one over on buyers by going “underground” for cosmetic/body work. If the car was involved in an accident and the seller either did their own work or got a friend to do it on the down low, you won’t see it on a report … But you might be able to catch it. Look for:
- Irregularities in the color, sheen, or texture of the paint, especially around doors, wheel wells, and other places that are challenging for a lazy painter to perfect. If there are multiple colors on the car, that’s a big, waving red flag.
- Streaks or hatching indicating that filler has been used under the paint. If you run your hand across the vehicle and feel an area that’s rough or oddly textured, you may have found where Bondo or another body filler has been used to patch up the car.
- Misalignments or irregularities in places where a replacement part could have been installed. A vehicle in good condition should have even spaces between areas like door panels, trunk hatches, fenders, bumpers, etc. If you notice a misalignment, like a door that seems slightly off compared to the others, ask the seller what the story is and think twice about purchasing the car.
- Brand new/fresh undercoat, which may indicate that work was recently done on the vehicle and new undercoat was applied to cover up the signs.
Check the fasteners.
Another way to tell if a used car has been in an accident or had substantial work done is to look at the fasteners and screws with a critical eye. Missing clips or fasteners around the fenders, wheel wells, engine area, or doors can be a big clue that work was done on the vehicle and those items were either lost or weren’t put back on properly after the repairs.
If you notice rusty, scratched up, or damaged screws or bolts anywhere on the car, that’s another dead giveaway that work has been done on the vehicle. New cars straight from the factory don’t have these blemishes because the factory uses specialized tools to tighten screws and bolts without damaging the slick finish of the final product.
Good luck finding your next used car! Remember that you can find excellent quality used auto parts here at U-Wrench-It to help you with all of your DIY car projects.