Has my car ever been in an accident? Here’s how to check

Has my car ever been in an accident? Here’s how to check

More than 340 road traffic accidents take place in Britain each and every day – that’s more than 126,000 each year. The majority of them result in some kind of damage to a vehicle; if it’s minor, the damage may simply be left unrepaired or dealt with outside of insurance. In more severe accidents, the car will either be repaired through insurance or written off entirely, sending it to the scrapheap.

Accident damage of any severity will affect a vehicle’s value. Even if you’re buying something rare or collectible, an original, untouched example will always be worth more than one that’s been involved in a collision – even if the damage has been repaired to a high standard. Sometimes, repairs are done on the cheap too, affecting not only the vehicle’s value but its safety.

With all that in mind, it’s vital to work out whether your vehicle-to-be has been in a crash before you hand over any cash. In an ideal world, the seller would be honest and tell you up-front… but that doesn’t always happen. As accident recovery specialists, we’ve seen a fair few damaged vehicles in our time. Here’s how you can find out for sure whether your potential purchase has an accident history.

Common warning signs

There’s no guaranteed, foolproof way to work out whether a car has been in an accident simply by looking at it: you need to do some detective work and inspect it very carefully for warning signs.

Common signs of previous accident damage – aside from obvious visual indicators like scuffs and dents – include:

    • Uneven panel gaps
    • Inconsistent paint across different parts of the car. For example, if some panels are a slightly different shade or the paint has a different texture.
    • Cracks in the paint, which may indicate that a large amount of body filler has been used to cover a dent.
    • An inoperative airbag light. If the light doesn’t come on when you turn the ignition on and then goes off once the engine is running, it’s possible that the airbags have deployed in the past.
    • Broken tabs or cracked plastic pieces in the engine bay.
    • Parts in the engine bay that have white or yellow hand-written numbers on them or non-original stickers with part numbers on them. Details like this may often be hard to spot, but they’re a telltale sign that the vehicle has been repaired.

Performing a car check

If you think the car has been written off in the past and the seller is keeping that information from you, there’s an easy way to work out if they’re telling the truth. Complete an HPI Check or similar online vehicle check, which will tell you whether the vehicle has been recorded as an insurance write-off.

Beware, though: if the damage wasn’t repaired through insurance, a car check won’t be able to reveal past accident history. It’s always a good idea to carry out the manual checks outlined above, just to be sure.

Proud owner of Cambridge Car Solutions, a family run business offering both Vehicle Recycling & 24/7 Breakdown Recovery.