Buying a second-hand car that has been in an accident is not what a buyer like you and me wants, so, there has always been a need to verify and check the vehicle and see if it has been damaged previously by collision or other. But once you decide to search for the truth, you’ll find lots of tips, tricks, and guides with wrong information that never works, the car is not only painted and chassis but also more.
So, keep reading the full guide if you really want to distinguish between a good car that’s free of accidents (and clean title) and another vehicle that was crashed, repaired, repainted and then listed for sale by scammers.
9 methods to verify if a used car was in an accident
Before starting, make sure you have the car VIN or license plate number at least to save time and find car accident reports online with a few clicks, or use the other methods to detect any attempts of fraud by agencies or used car sellers.
1. Check the car history online
This is by far the smartest way to tell at 100% if the car you’re looking for and want to buy had an accident or not, thanks to advanced VIN lookup tools, car buyers can see all the repairs and accidents a car had over time. These sites collect the data from lots of sources and even more, there is an option to use the license plate number to find any possible reports about accidents. Thus, there is no more need to waste the time with a job that only a mechanic can achieve like verifying the body paint, chassis, parts, etc…
2. Search for any small particle of glass
This happened to me and I know how important this is, in reality, cleaning a crashed car glass from the windshield is a pain and in most cases, there will remain tiny fragments of glass anywhere inside the cabin. So, start by removing all the foot mats and if possible, the carpets one by one, then, be careful and don’t touch the hidden area without wearing a glove box or protection method, the small glass particle can easily injure you when touching them by hand.
Now, if there are any of these particles shattered from the windows, then, there was a crash or at least damage from rocks or others.
3. Measure the paint surface
This is for those who want to buy expensive cars and who are willing to verify all the car paint, however, anyone can use it if he has a paint width measurement tool. It’s a small device or tool that measures the thickness of the car paint, and so, if it’s more than what a layer of paint should be, you’ll find it with digital value.
Some devices detect every micrometer in paint width while others work by small fractions of one millimeter, so, the sensitivity may not be the same and the best tool is not cheap all the time. So, if you can’t buy one, ask a technician or car repair shop to test your pain with the device. When the car owner paints the car or the damaged areas, the thickness of the paint can be detected easily as it’s not the same as the default layer by the manufacturer.
4. Drive the car over bumps and holes
No matter where we drive, in the US or in any other country, the number of speed bumps is increasing year after another, so, no one wants to mess with that. But also, driving a used car over speed bumps will uncover any hidden problems with the suspension and especially from struts, bushings, etc… Listen for any clunking noise carefully and you’ll find the difference.
Meantime, when driving over road holes or inverted speed bumps, look for any unusual car balancing issues, if the car is damaged from an accident, you’ll feel it unbalanced and jacking over these surfaces. Of course, the owner may not be aware of all that if he bought the car from someone else, but you should verify that.
If the car hits big holes or inverted speed bumps and its back moves right or left and you’ll feel it is not right, then, the car is damaged by an accident with another vehicle. In that situation, you’ll find the rear axle support or facelift suspension damaged by a collision, and the repair will be costly.
5. Look for bad Camber angle
When changing tires or wheels, car owners may need to check their alignment, so, the mechanic will use a device that measures the angles, but if the car has been in a traffic collision from the backsides, then, the Camber angle will be wrong. The Camber angle measures the angles between the vertical axle of the tire when viewing from the front or from the rear. In other words, if the car tire had a large negative or a positive camber angle, then, that’s the impact of a collision from that side. You need to compare both sides of the car and see if any tire is not correctly aligned vertically.
6. There is a play on headlights, bumpers, or doors
By looking at the headlights carefully, you may notice small spaces around it that should not look like that from the factory, that’s because another car or solid surface hit the vehicle from the front area and caused the problem. Even when repairing the headlight or replacing it completely, car owners or bad mechanics can skip the small plays, but you can check that.
Also, look for any bad alignment of doors with panels, if someone replaces the car door after an accident, there may still be a free play around it that lots of car owners neglect to avoid paying more money for repairs.
7. Bring the car to the workshop inspector
No matter what others say about inspecting a second hand car, it’s always recommended to get help from an expert in the Auto world. Experts know exactly how scammers can change things and they can find problems with the car you want to buy and tell you if it has been in a traffic crash or not. Even more, when getting advice from an expert or engineer, you may know approximately how much money you’ll spend to repair it if everything else is not affected or damaged.
Here is an example, a bad bumper alignment can be one of many other signs of car frame damage, so, if the man tells you that the vehicle needs a simple bumper fix, then, that may not be true. In other words, buying accident-damaged cars these days is not for everyone, only experts and those who know how to repair the body or replace the chassis parts can deal with that.
8. Use websites and social media
It may look like a strange idea to search Google or Facebook for example for this purpose, but what if someone posted a comment or information about the car you want to test? That happens especially in floods, disasters, and of course accidents, the real car owner or others might want to ask a question on a social platform, and Google may show you that detail if you search, just use the license plate number or the vehicle VIN.
9. Ask the seller directly
Yes, even if this looks unusual, it still works if you know how to detect if someone is lying to you or not. With simple tricks, people can ask the question directly while looking directly into the eyes of the person who wants to sell the car, if the guy looks away while answering or says he doesn’t know or struggles to answer, then, chances are, he lies to you and the car is not what he talks about. Even if this trick is not accurate at 100%, it can give you an idea.
Buying a used car with an accident history may not be worth it if the damaged area needs lots of fixes and costs tons of money to repair. On the other hand, if the vehicle damage is minor and easy to repair, that could be fine if the car runs fine and it’s just a small fix. So, use the above tricks and tips to inspect the vehicle yourself and find if it has been in a crash or is still good to invest money in, that’s the best way to buy a pre-owned car.