Car Buying

Buying a Car: Why Should You Care If a Car Was in an Accident and Repaired?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2016

If you're interested in buying a car, you'll probably examine the Carfax or AutoCheck report in order to learn about its history. In some cases, you might find that the car has been in an accident -- a major red flag. But why should you care if the car was in an accident? As long as the car was repaired and looks good now, what difference does it make? Here's the answer.

Long-Lasting Damage

The main reason why you should be concerned if a used car has been in an accident is that accidents can cause long-lasting damage -- which, in some cases, can persist or continue to cause problems long after the car has been repaired. For instance: If a vehicle's crumple zones have already crumpled, it's difficult to put them back together again exactly as they were when the car left the factory -- and that means it might not be as safe in a future accident.

And it isn't just a future accident where you may discover problems from a prior one. Parts that have been bent, broken or damaged in an accident may wear more quickly, fail more quickly or develop rust more quickly than those that haven't -- and in some cases, you won't discover those things for months or years after the accident happened.

Repair Quality

Another reason why you should be skeptical of cars that were in an accident: Repair quality isn't always perfect. While it's difficult for any body shop to repair a vehicle to the factory's exacting standards, some shops don't even get close -- and some shops repair vehicles as quickly as possible, with little regard to overall quality.

For example: Airbags are often very costly components, and some corner-cutting shops (or drivers who try to fix vehicles themselves) will simply avoid replacing them after a car has been in an accident where they deployed. As a result, you'll want to get a mechanical inspection on any car you might be considering if it's been in an accident before -- just to make sure it was repaired properly.

Not Always True

With all this said, buying a car that's been in an accident isn't always a bad idea. The vast majority of accidents involve low-speed scrapes, a few bent panels, or a couple of scratches or dents that can easily be fixed. So you shouldn't count out a car that matches all your search criteria just because it's been in an accident.

But finding out a car has been in an accident should certainly make you more cautious about it -- and we strongly suggest getting a mechanical inspection on any car with a prior accident history before buying it.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Why Should You Care If a Car Was in an Accident and Repaired? - Autotrader