Finding Hidden Accident Damage In A Used Car

When buying a used car, you want to make sure it hasn't been in a major accident. You can check for some of these signs of accident damage yourself and save yourself money and trouble down the road.

Match the VIN Stickers

If a part from the car has been replaced by one from another car, the VIN numbers will not match. VIN and manufacturer stickers are found in several places on the car, and the last two numbers should match on every sticker. They are found in these places:

  • VIN sticker under the hood on one or the other side panel.
  • Emissions label and sometimes a VIN number on the inside hood.
  • VIN sticker on the side of the driver's door as you open it
  • Manufacturer label on the right inside of the driver's side door frame
  • Sometimes a manufacturer label on the left side of the driver side dashboard
  • VIN sticker on the passenger side door

The Most Important VIN

The most important VIN is on the lower inside of the dash under the windshield. This is usually an embossed, metal sticker placed there so that law enforcement does not have to open the car to find the number. This VIN should always match the title.

Missing or Painted Over VIN Stickers

If you find a VIN or manufacturer's sticker that is missing or has been painted over, it is either from damage repair or to hide the mismatched VIN number.

Check the Trunk

Open the trunk and look for any water inside. If there is none, close the trunk, take a garden hose and spray around the edges of the trunk lid and check inside again. If the trunk has been damaged, water will appear inside the trunk.

Check the Frame

Measure the distance between the tire and the back frame. If the measurements are different, it may indicate frame damage. This tells your collision repair shop what to look for when you are having your car checked prior to purchase.

Get the Seller's Insurance Information

You can find hidden damage from accidents by checking with the seller's insurance company to see if the car has been in any accidents and how serious they were. If the seller doesn't want to give you that information, it's probably best to walk away.

Check Underneath the Car

Unless you know exactly what to look for, it's probably best to have a collision center check the underside of the car for any signs of previous collision damage. There are a number of small things that the untrained eye may not notice that they will know to look for.

Recognizing hidden accident damage can save you headaches later on. If you suspect hidden damage or are not comfortable after checking the car yourself, having a professional collision repair auto body shop perform a thorough check for you can possibly save you thousands of dollars down the road.