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How to Tell If a Car Has Been in an Accident

How to Tell If a Car Has Been in an Accident


People often sell their cars when things begin to go wrong or the car has been in an accident. That is not to say all second hand cars are problem cars. Car traders can buy damaged cars very cheaply and if they can affect repairs themselves can sell the repaired car on for a handsome profit at the buyer’s expense.

In some instances a car which has been repaired after an accident can be dangerous if repairs are done properly. Also accident damaged cars can rust prematurely because of stress on certain panels. Also some panels may be filled with fibreglass or filler which may bubble up with time.

How can one tell if a car has suffered accident damage?

This isn’t always easy but it is easy to tell there is something wrong with the bodywork and repairs have been made.

First thing to do is stand well back and look at the way the car sits on the road. If the car is on level ground it should appear level. It should not sag at one end of the other or appear lopsided.

Now step up close and look at the paintwork critically. If the car is under five years old it should not show any signs of rust even in the wettest climates. Any bubbling will demonstrate rust or filler. Tap the panels in any suspect area. Filler will not ring and sound like a dull thud. Indeed if there is any clear difference in the sound as you tap along the panel will suggest something is wrong.

Step up to the front window and peal back the window rubber. If there is a margin of paint built up where the rubber meets the paintwork; the most likely explanation is it has been re-sprayed. However polish can build up at these points so rub it first to be sure it is paint.

Check doors and the trunk lid and hood for ease of operation. Check the gap around doors etc; there should be an even gap around the whole panel. If it is too tight one side and a large gap the other suggests repairs.

Look underneath for welding. The manufacturers welding should not show. If you can see seams of welding it suggests repairs. On a young car the under-seal should be in perfect condition, if there are any under-seal removed or any flaking it suggests tampering.  

Now ask for a test drive and ensure you do the driving. The car should drive smoothly with no steering issues. If it pulls to one side or sways about it may suggest a twisted chassis.  

The car you intend to buy should look right, drive right and feel right. If it doesn’t don’t buy there are many more cars for sale.

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