How to Check a Used Car for Accidents

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In this video tutorial, CARFAX describes some of the things to look for when checking a used car for accidents. Because of the ability to repair a vehicle to seem as though it is in perfect condition, uncovering accident history can be one of the most difficult things when buying a used car. While there is no guaranteed way to find out, here are some tips which could help you learn if the vehicle you’re interested in has been in an accident in its history.

One of the first things to do when checking a used car for accidents is to look for signs of a repaint. Look around windows, between the gaps in body panels, or on the insides of the doors for any indications of overspray (when paint carries over onto other parts of the vehicle after painting the repaired area). Oftentimes, you can also see variations in the shine and colour on areas where the paint job is not from the factory.

Another key thing to look for is the spacing between body panels. The gaps should be even all around the vehicle. If you find the gap between a door and another body panel on one side to be much smaller than everywhere else on the body, it's very possible that an accident happened, causing damage to that location of the vehicle. Not all vehicles are delivered from the factory with perfectly spaced gaps in the body panels, but keep your eyes open for clear differences.

When checking a used car for accidents, you can often see signs of frame damage when the vehicle is moving. If possible, ask the seller to drive the vehicle away from you and back towards you. Get low to the ground and check for signs of "crabbing". This is when the front and back wheels do not line up 100% with one another. "Crabbing" is usually a sign of frame damage, which usually comes from more serious accidents.

Open and close all the doors, including the boot. If there are any abnormal sounds, such as popping, squeaking, groaning or creaking, the vehicle may have been in an accident. These sounds can be the result of the body panels not being correctly aligned or a side effect of frame damage.

Of course, any visible damages are a clear indication that the vehicle was in an accident. However, while some scratches are normal, you want to keep in mind that larger dents and deeper scratches may have been the result of something a little more serious than bumping against another car while parking.

It is also possible to check for spots which have been filled in and painted over by a repair shop. You can do this by holding a magnet against any specific areas of the body to see if it sticks. If not, chances are this spot was filled in due to either rust or damage from an accident.

If you ever have any doubts while checking a used car for accidents, ask for the advice of an expert. Either have the car inspected in a workshop, or bring a mechanic with you to look over the car before buying it. It's important to ask the seller as many questions as you may have, because once you buy it, you may never have the chance to learn the vehicle’s history again.

Whenever you buy a used car, it is always recommended to check the CARFAX Vehicle History Report. The CARFAX Report can help you discover a lot about the vehicle's past, including things such as ownership records, mileage inconsistencies, import and export records, detailed technical information and much more. Checking the CARFAX can help you make better purchase decisions!