Check Cars for Accident Damage

It's important to know how to check cars for accident damage when considering purchasing a used car. Assessing past damage will help you determine the real value of the car and detect resulting problems that could result. Here are some tips on how to detect auto accident damage.

Steps

  1. Obtain a vehicle history report.
    • Use a vehicle history research company like Carfax to get a full report on the car's history. This file will contain a list of all past owners, insurance information and any accident reports or claims filed involving the vehicle. This will help you know what kind of damage to look for when physically inspecting the car.
  2. Look for fender and bumper cracks.
    • Examine both ends of the vehicle and look for any cracks or patched areas. Fenders and bumpers break easily in a collision because they are often made of lightweight or plastic composite material. Breakage or repairs to the fender or bumper is a good indicator of further car accident damage.
  3. Check the windshield.
    • Look at all windows and the front and back windshields of the car to check for vehicle accident damage. Note any chips, cracks or webbing. This could indicate that the car was involved in a collision and these areas will definitely require repairs.
  4. Assess the car's body lines.
    • Crouch down at one end of the car so you're eye level with the body of the car. Look along the main line down the side of the car's body. This line should be straight and even and the car's paint should reflect normally. An uneven line or distorted reflection indicates that body panels of the car have been replaced or hammered out due to body damage.
  5. Examine panel and door gaps.
    • Look at the gaps between each door and the adjoining body panel. The gaps should be straight and an even width from top to bottom. A car that has had auto accident damage will have uneven gaps due to misalignment or replaced panels or doors.
  6. Feel the body for filler spots.
    • Run the palm of your hand down the body panels of the car and around the corners of the fender and bumper. A car with accident damage will have bumps or uneven spots from filler used to repair damaged areas.
  7. Check for clamp marks.
    • Clamp marks around the frame of the car indicate that the car has been on a frame machine, so the car has likely sustained damage that required major repairs to the car's body after an accident.
  8. Look for repainting.
    • Look closely along the edges of the car's doors and body panels for any nicks, scratches or uneven paint areas. Signs of a different color paint underneath could mean that the car has been repainted after an accident or that a door or panel was replaced and repainted to match the rest of the car.

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