What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

The last thing anyone wants is to get hustled on a used car. It can be tricky, however, to know the condition of a used car, especially for people without much experience with them. Many used cars are labeled “restored after an accident.” And while the vehicle might look like it’s in perfect condition, a person should take extra precautions that the used car they are buying is in driveable condition and safe for the road.

One common question people ask is: Is it ok to buy a car after it’s been in an accident?

The short answer is… it depends. One of the biggest factors to consider is how severe the accident was. But even then, sometimes small fender benders can compromise the safety of a vehicle. Sometimes vehicle safety simply can not be restored. There are many auto body shops out there that can restore a damaged car to make it look new again, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it. If you are buying a used car, you should find out as much as possible about it before you hand over your money.

For many, dealing with cars can be intimidating. That’s why we came up with a guide so that you can feel confident that what you’re looking at is worth buying.

Tips for Buying a Used Car

1. Check the used car history records

The used car history records are the first line of defense for buyers. If an accident involving the car was reported, it will show up on the used car history. If the car you are looking at has been in a bad accident and is now restored, proceed with caution.

There are also services such as CarProof and CarFax where you can buy the vehicle’s history so you can see if it has been in any accidents and ownership history

2. Spot the signs

There are a few tricks of the trade that will let you know what kind of repairs a car has had, even if the person selling isn’t telling the whole truth. Here are some things to look out for.

Reflection — the reflection in a paint job can tell you a lot. If the car is new and has not undergone a secondary paint job, the lines will be straight and the paint surface smooth. If the reflection is instead wavy or uneven, there is a good chance that it is not a factory paint job and instead done after a repair.

Peeling — Oftentimes, the clear coat on secondary paint jobs will begin to peel or crack, especially around corners or round surfaces. Look closely at the vehicle to spot any signs of peeling paint or clear coat.

Panels — When panels need repair or replacement, often the new panel will not sit perfectly. Make sure that the vehicle’s panels are flush.

Rust — Depending on where you live, rust can be a big problem. In Vancouver, Richmond and the Lower Mainland, we don’t deal with salt on the road quite like places west of us (although this last winter was an exception). But rust can also start to eat away at a vehicle’s body after an accident. While some rust can be temporarily repaired, it is difficult to stop corrosion once it has started. Rust will re-appear so major rust is something to avoid in a used car.

If you’re still not sure that what you are seeing is a sign of a previous accident, here’s an extra tip for you: Compare both sides of the car.

Perhaps there is a gap between panels that you are uncertain of, take a look at the other side of the vehicle to see if space exists on that side, too. If there is something amiss, you’ll be able to get more information by doing this kind of comparison.

3. Take it to an auto body shop

Don’t be afraid to ask to take the vehicle into a trusted auto body shop and have your mechanic take a look at it themselves. Professionals are often the best to rely on when it comes to used cars. Repairs that look fine to the untrained eye can end up costing you dearly down the road, and it can put your safety at risk.

In the end, be cautious when buying a used car. Get as much information as you can and take your time to look carefully for signs of repair. Read the used car history and if you still have uncertainty, take the car to your own auto body repair shop in Vancouver.

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We hope this guide helps and good luck!