How to inspect a car body when buying a used
At the beginning.
Ask the owner (salesperson) if the car has had
If he knows about it - he has to inform you.
However, in the real life most of the salesperson will hardly
tell you that the car is after an accident. So, rely only to
what you see, not what you have been told.
What kind of body repair has been done? There is no problem if
only one body panel (a fender or door) had been repaired,
because of minor damage. But avoid cars that had serious damage
or have been flooded.
Also avoid cars that had been rusty and then repaired. A rust
tends to reappear again.
Look down the length of the car.
The lines of the car body should be
straight. Look at the image on the side of this
Mercedes; this car hasn't been in any accidents, as you
can see. Look at the reflection; it is perfect. Try to
check the entire car this way.
! If the car is dirty, don't
hurry. Ask the owner to wash it, or you may notice
But look at this image. Check this Toyota's rear fender.
You can notice that the reflection on the rear fender
isn't perfect. Therefore, you can suspect that this rear
fender has been damaged, although I think it's not too
big a problem if only one body panel has been damaged.
But at least you can ask for a lower price.
Check all the gaps between the fenders,
doors, hood and trunk.
Every gap should be even along its entire length. Look
at this image. The gap is wide at the top and narrow at
the bottom, which probably means this car has been hit
at its right front corner. Try to inspect all the gaps
the same way.
If one of the gaps looks too narrow (too wide) - compare
it to the same gap on another side of the car, they have
to be of exactly the same width. If they are notable
different, it's very possible the car has been in an
Try to find the border between original and
Look at this image. This is the Toyota shown above. As
you already know, its left rear fender has been
repainted, but its roof has not been repainted, which
means there should be a border between the different
coats of paint. Try to check all such places; maybe
you'll find one. Though a skilled painter may make such
a border almost invisible, you'll find it somewhere if
you check the entire car carefully, so take your time.
is one more sign you may find - scaled off clear coat.
It usually happens because the area wasn't sanded
properly before painting, as in case of "cheap - cheap"
Check the places behind the doors and under
the hood and trunk.
There is a spot of new paint on the rubber hose in this
image. Try to check carefully all such places (behind
doors) for paint over spray. It shows you that the car
has been repainted.
Check the hood and door holding bolts.
As you see here, this hood has been readjusted from its
original position. It's another sign that this car has
been involved in an accident. Try to pull up the
driver's door when it's open - does it have a free play
in the hinges? Excessive free play - excessive use
||It's very difficult to
paint some replaced or damaged part (like a fender, door
or hood) in exactly the same color as the original
paint. Try to figure it out. Take a look at the car from
different angles and from various distances. (Look at
the images. The color seems to be the same on the top
image, but from the other angle you can note the
difference). Try feel the painting with your hand;
originally paint should be perfectly smooth.
! If you feel some unevenness
under the paint, it's a sign that this area has been
repainted. Look closely at the paint again. You may
notice some little things under the paint (a little
piece of hair, dust, etc.). It's the same sign.
Check the rust.
Look at these image. This is one of the common places
If you find some spot of corrosion,
continue your search more carefully. Check the floor
under the carpet, door's bottom, trunk and wheel arches.
Take a little magnet and try to make it cling to the
bottom of the doors, fenders and other places where you
suspect some defect.
! If there is too much filler
under the paint, the magnet won't cling. However one or
two small spots of corrosion isn't a big deal.
Check the vehicle's frame.
Some cars have a frame (most of SUV's, trucks, some
vans, large passenger cars, etc.). The car's frame
(marked with a blue arrow on the image below) is very
essential to support the vehicle. Try to check the
entire length of the frame. It shouldn't have any traces
of damage (welding traces, cracks, etc.) or be rusty
! If you find one, avoid such a
How to check whether the car has been
Check the places under the car carpet.
! If there is too much moisture under
there, and the car wheels and other metal parts are too rusty,
you may suspect that this car has been flooded. Avoid such a