Tips for buying a used car that was in an accident

5 minute read Published on Jun 3, 2021 by BrokerLink Communications

Tips for buying a used car that was in an accident

There are many benefits to buying a used car versus a new car. It’s usually cheaper, most of its depreciation has already occurred, you have a good understanding of its performance expectations, and as a bonus, buying used is an environmentally-friendly choice!

You may even knowingly purchase a used car that has previously been in an accident. A key advantage to this is that the price point is usually lower than the regular ‘used’ price, but is that reason good enough?

To help you navigate this option, we’ve compiled a few tips on how to buy a used car that has been in an accident. Keep reading to learn more!

Evaluating a used car that’s been previously damaged

It’s very important that you do a thorough evaluation before purchasing a car that’s been in an accident because damages may not be noticeable to an average person. The long-term effects of accident damage can be disguised with cosmetics by private sellers or dealers. They may make these cosmetic changes to entice buyers into buying the vehicle.

Avoid being duped by taking the time to follow these simple, important steps when doing your evaluation of this vehicle:

  1. Get a full vehicle history report from a service like CARFAX. This will provide you with information including registration history, details regarding every accident the vehicle has been in, any damage it has sustained, and even any recalls that the particular make and model might have missed.
  2. Consult with a trusted mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection to assess the damage history and each component of the vehicle beforehand – interior, and exterior.
  3. Test drive the vehicle yourself to make sure everything is in working order and drives to your expectations.

Should you buy a used car that’s been in an accident?

While purchasing a used car that has previously been in an accident will cost you significantly less, whether it’s a good idea or not depends on the nature of the accident, so it’s worth spending time researching and thoroughly fact-checking the vehicle before buying it.

If you’re considering purchasing a car with accident history, weigh it against these pros and cons:

Pros of purchasing a used car that has been in an accident:

  • Buying a used car that’s been in an accident can save you money
  • Premium models may be more affordable
  • You can customize as you wish

Cons of purchasing a used car that has been in an accident:

  • There could be unreported (hidden) problems that could cause issues down the road, e.g. long-term engine damage
  • There may be higher maintenance costs
  • Repair quality isn’t always flawless

Ultimately, it is your choice if you want to invest in this type of vehicle. If you are looking to purchase a less expensive car and don’t mind the possibility of unreliable repair work, buying a car that’s been in an accident might be the right option for you.

Things to consider before buying a damaged used car

Buying pre-owned cars that have been in an accident but are still running can help you to save lots of money, but it can also be risky. Make sure you consider these factors before deciding to buy a used car that's been in an accident:

  • The car’s damage history
  • Type of car
  • The car’s condition after repair
  • Whether the title is clean or whether it’s a salvage?
  • Does the accident show up on the vehicle history report?
  • How did the test drive go?
  • Is the vehicle priced right considering its history?

Confirm the used and damaged car is insurable before you buy

Before you can register the title ownership of any new or used car, you must purchase an insurance policy, which is another cost to consider. This cost may be impacted if the car has an accident history based on whether it was a major or a minor accident. In addition, you want to ensure the car is insurable – especially if it had been in a major accident!

Minor accidents like dents and scratches only require simple repairs and are considered easy and relatively inexpensive to repair, so they could be seen as a means for buyers to get reasonable deals and easily fix them up at a body shop.

If a vehicle is damaged significantly in a major accident, the insurance company or the prior owner may have disposed of it with salvage titles. A vehicle resold as a salvage may have severe structural damage, which could impact its overall safety so it may not be considered insurable. This is a good thing to confirm with your insurance broker before you purchase.

Get in touch with a BrokerLink insurance advisor

There are advantages to buying a damaged car if the damage is minimal and the price is right. However, an accident history impacts vehicle value, and a used car in bad condition may not be an asset you want to acquire. Let BrokerLink be your resource for all things car insurance. From start to finish, our brokers handle the legwork to make sure you walk away satisfied.

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FAQs: Buying a used car that’s been in an accident

How much does accident history affect car value?

An accident will affect the value of your car no matter what. Even if you get everything repaired as good as new, the accident becomes part of the car’s Vehicle History Report. The fact the vehicle was involved in an accident is listed on the report and will lower the value of the car. Speak with an insurance advisor to find out how certain types of accidents will affect the value of your vehicle.

What is the difference between clean title and salvage title?

A clean title is an average title that you would receive when purchasing a vehicle. A brand new vehicle has a clean title and so do most pre-owned vehicles that can be driven safely and are insurable. A salvage title refers to a vehicle that has been deemed a total loss by the insurer. The loss could be due to a multitude of reasons including an accident, but also theft, fire and floods.

Can a car have a clean title with a major accident?

It should not. By definition, a car with a clean title means that it has never experienced any sort of major accident. Be sure you are purchasing the car from a reputable source and do your due diligence by researching its history.