5 clear signs a used car has been involved in an accident

The benefits of buying pre-owned are easy to see, the value of pre-owned vs new is unparalleled and so it’s easy to see why the South African consumer is drawn towards pre-owned over new. 

There are however a few things that should be looked out for when buying used, to make sure you’re getting a great deal. 

Sometimes, cheaper isn’t always better. We see this with insanely low priced cars coming online everyday. Some if not most of these cars have a history that leaves much to be desired. One of the biggest questions I get asked as a sales manager is, “Has this car been involved in an accident?” The reason is simple, people are nervous of used cars, we don’t all know how to check for the clear cut signs that. Car has been involved in an accident. So pay attention to the below basics I use when valuing cars daily.

  • Check for colour shade differences, this is sometimes tricky as paint on a bumper vs paint on a fender for instance will always be slightly different. This is as a result of light reflecting differently off plastic versus metal. But if you have a front and rear door with completely different shades of colour, take a closer look!
  • Feel with your hands along the edges of panels, you’re looking for rough patches where paint has dried inconsistently. Really bad repair work will show up as cracks directly on the paint, huge warning sign to stay away. However, most cars will have some cosmetic paint where a scratch or small dent was repaired, and shouldn’t be cause for concern. 
  • Open the bonnet, all the doors and even the boot. Have a look at the bolts – you’re looking for signs that some of them have been removed. If many panels seem to have been removed and bolts seem used, take a closer look at how the panels align. Do they all have a similar gap? If not, this is usually a sign of accident damage and you should treat carefully.
  • Inside the car, have a look where all the airbags sit, are there seams that don’t seem 100% right? Have a look at the seatbelt tensioners (this is where the seatbelt is connected to the inside pillar) Are there any signs they have been pulled very tightly? Scratches will usually indicate they’ve been used to hold a person tight in their seat, and again a clear sign to be careful.
  • Check the headlights. Does one seem a lot newer than the other? This could indicate one was damaged badly and replaced, and is a sign to take a closer look! 

When buying used, keep your eyes open, and you’ll be sure to get the value that pre-owned cars offer. If you are unsure or a first time buyer I highly recommend requesting a dekra (AA) multipoint check to be done before committing to any car, the dealer will oblige if they have nothing to hide. Topgear Auto sells all our cars with the Dekra multipoint check for your peace of mind! Have anything to add? Please add a comment below, we’d love to hear from you. 

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