How to Avoid Accident Damage Motors When Buying a Used Car
Compiled with the help of police, car buying professionals, and even ex-car criminals, GAUK Motors used car buyer’s guide is probably the most comprehensive guide to buying a secondhand motor ever written…
Motoring Used Car Guide: V.U.it-check-list
Recent police figures suggest that 1 in 3 cars have a hidden history!
This can mean a number of things.
One major problem faced by you the car buyer is being sold a motor that has been in an accident and that important information is not disclosed during your call and pre-inspection investigations.
Most cars will have some sort of knock during it’s life, this is a normal part of driving on today’s roads. The problem arises when you’re sold a motor that has been in a bad accident, then repaired in a back street garage and passed off as being straight.
There’s a lot of money to be made in bodging together a badly damaged vehicle, so unfortunately for you there are a lot of people at it!
Damaged cars can be bought very cheaply because to put them right can cost hundreds, if not thousands of pounds if done properly by a main dealer using manufacturer’s parts. What most people don’t know is that pattern or replica parts can be bought for a fraction of the cost – often they are a fraction of the quality too.
There’s nothing wrong with buying an accident-repaired motor when the work has been carried out by a good professional just so long as you know exactly what you are buying. A vehicle that has been in a significant accident then repaired will be around 20 – 30% cheaper than the equivalent straight car.
Things start to go wrong when the person selling you the accident-repaired car tries to pass it off as good. They will do this because of the large profits to be made.
You can phone the Vehicle Check organisations, they can be of some help. They will tell you if there is outstanding finance but are not always so accurate when it comes to accident damage. The problem is many cars don’t end up as insurance claims therefore don’t end up on the accident register – a lot more than you think!
A very obvious loophole is when a driver is only insured 3rd party, they have an accident with a wall which is their fault and hey presto, they’re not insured.
Result – a damaged car that can be bought for peanuts, repaired cheaply and sold on to you. Try phoning a vehicle check company and you will be told the motor has never been in an accident. You see the checking company can only check the information it has been given; they don’t have the luxury, as you do of having the vehicle in front of them. Any good professional will take a few minutes to look over a car and confidently tell you if it’s had an accident and been thrown together or not.
The professional knows exactly what to look for. The thing is what he looks for is not difficult to spot; in fact it’s all very easy. Anyone can find the clues to accident repair if they know what to look for.
So what do you look for?
Before you go to look at any vehicle take a look out the window and see what the weather is up to, Always view a car in good daylight and dry conditions – you wouldn’t believe what a few spots of water can hide.
Now that you’re with the car stand back and take the whole thing in. The main thing were looking for is evenness in the body panels, make sure all the gaps between wings and doors, between wings and bonnet, between boot and body etc. are all even.
On a good car all these gaps will be straight and even. When you look at the bonnet there should not be a much bigger gap on one side than the other. Walk around the whole car studying the gaps looking for that symmetry.
Happy with the gaps?
Now take closer look at the paintwork, is the colour even all over. Compare each panel with the one next to it; you’re looking for shade differences. It’s quite difficult to get a perfect colour match to the original. As you walk around the vehicle let the light pick out any blemishes or dents. Filler work will be easy to spot when it hasn’t been done well.
You will see the uneven line between filler and the original body. Stand at the front and look along the sides, move slightly from side to side and you will see the light pick out all the faults. While you are standing at the front squat down about 10 feet away from the car and look at the wheels – all four should line up perfectly. If they don’t then the car has had a major crash
Look at the tyre treads for signs of irregular wear. If one or both are worn on just one edge it may mean the car’s tracking is out, or there may be more serious problems.
You need to get it checked out.
This is something a garage would have to do. If it is just the tracking then a few pounds will put it right, if it’s not then the bill will be somewhat bigger an you will know for sure the vehicle has had a major thump.
Seeing as you are at the front of the motor go and give it a bounce at each corner. Do this a few times before letting go. If it bounces more that twice then a shock absorber is faulty.
If everything looks OK at first glance we’re going to take a closer look.
Walking around the motor take each panel in turn. The best way to describe the next trick is to try to look through the paintwork, look deeper and if a panel has had a repair you will usually see the sanding scratches picked out by the light.
When a vehicle has pinstripes/coach lines/go-faster stripes look at them closely.
A common trick is to paint up to a stripe. For example if a car has had damage along the whole side below the pinstripe the motor is masked up so the paint meets the stripe. It saves paying to paint the whole car. The giveaway is that when you look closely you can see where the ridge of paint has met the masking tape along the bottom of the stripe.
We’re now going over the vehicle more closely, open and close all the doors bonnet and boot. They should operate smoothly and close properly. You’re also looking for signs of over spray, this is where the paint has coated places it shouldn’t. It shows up best on black trim and especially around the window rubbers. It costs more to take the rubbers and trims off so normally garages don’t bother, they mask them up.
Fortunately for you it is a skilled job to mask perfectly so look out for that ridge of paint. Make sure you go over the whole car looking for over spray, inside door shuts, engine bay, under wings, everywhere.
Next look in the boot and lift the carpet to reveal the bodywork. Look at the joints where one panel meets the other. Each joint should not look tampered with, if there are lumps of painted weld then there’s been a badly executed major repair. The same goes for the engine bay, all joints will be clean and original.
Another little known trick is to look at the glass. Every window has a manufacturers mark printed in the bottom corner. It should be the same mark on all the windows. The only excuse is a window was broken at some stage – but the question is, was the window broken to steal the car, take it for a joyride and wrap it round a lamppost?
Look at the trims, do they look about the same age as the car or are they new?
The same goes for headlights, bumpers, stripes and decals (manufacturers stickers).
Eventually you’ll take the vehicle for a fifteen-minute drive. A car that you are not used to will feel strange at first so take a few minutes to get accustomed to it. Find a straight, empty bit of road. Apply the brakes at low speeds; if everything is in order try them at progressively higher speeds. (Up to 40 – 50 MPH)
Hold the wheel tight in case you get a strong pull to one side. The car should always come to a smooth controlled stop without using excess pedal pressure.
There should be no excessive noise and no pulling to either side.
Drive the car in a straight line at around 25 30 MPH. Turn the wheel gently from side to side, if it feels sluggish and unresponsive then there are serious problems.
If the bonnet rises and falls over uneven surfaces then there is a problem with the front suspension. It’ll feel as though you’re carrying a heavy load in the back.
When you use the system you have just learnt you will usually spot a problem car now you know what to look for.
If you feel there is a problem do not be persuaded otherwise by the seller.
If you want the motor get a second opinion from someone you trust. If the seller won’t agree then walk away and put your money into a car you feel happier about.
The whole process only takes about 30 mins including the test drive, although I would suggest that in the beginning you spend more time. You’ll find you soon get the hang of it.
As I said there is nothing wrong with buying an accident repaired vehicle so long as you are aware of what you are buying and the price has been adjusted accordingly.