how to check if a car has been in an accident

Ever found yourself admiring a car from a distance only to notice some discrepancies such as welding marks or uneven painting when you got closer? In most cases, these issues indicate that the car might have been involved in some sort of accident. And that’s a possible deal-breaker if you’re looking to buy a used car.

Here, we discuss seven common issues you should look for to know if a car has an accident history.


For starters, a car involved in an accident will usually be repainted to cover up the damages. When done correctly, this painting may look seamless at first especially under the lighting of the used car space.

That’s why you need a well-lit environment to see the reflection of the paint clearly. Ask your dealer or seller to bring the car out in the sun to enable you inspect it comprehensively for unevenness.

Do you notice any mismatching colors or contrast in the shininess of the panels? If yes, then it’s a point-blank indication that the car’s bodywork has undergone repairs.

Parts replacements

Only a few things shout ‘a car involved in an accident’ louder than non-matching body parts. Some car owners are never very keen to look for matching replacements, while others choose to use cheaper options during repairs.

That’s good news for you as you can effortlessly spot the unevenness. If you see a newer section in a seemingly old car, that’s probably a red flag that the vehicle might have been in an accident.

Panel misalignments

The focus areas here are the doors and trunk. When you close these parts, they shouldn’t produce too much sound, neither should they misalign with the other panels.

Besides, the front and rear bumper should fit seamlessly and in a straight angle. If you can stick your finger in the gap between the panels, then chances are that the car has had a knock. Please note that it’s normal for a car to have minimal panel gaps; what’s abnormal is if the gaps are inconsistent throughout the bodywork.

Uneven tire treads

Tires are a reflection of the wheels. If they are worn out unevenly, it points to potentially misaligned wheels. Checking the wheels also provides an opportunity to inspect the underbody. If you see a fresh rubberized undercoat, it’s a sign of recent repairs meant to cover up possible structural damages.

Uneven tire wear may also indicate a damaged chassis. If the misaligned frame continually works against the wheel’s direction, all the amounting force and pressure divert to the wheels, thereby causing inconsistency in the tires.

Welding patches

The easiest way to salvage a car involved in an accident is to cut the damaged section and replace it with a new part, usually by welding. It doesn’t take a genius to notice the welding marks on a closer look.

In particular, look for cutaway sections that are conjoined because most cars come with their parts welded together and a uniform finish. Such areas as the boot floor usually come as a piece, so if you notice inconsistent joints, it’s likely that the car has been welded again.

We recommend you avoid such cars as it’s a sign that they may not have been repaired professionally. You don’t want to risk your life and money buying such cars as they may not hold up should another accident occur.

Dissimilar or missing fasteners and screws

Most mechanics often misplace screws or fasteners when working on cars. To cover it up, some look for other fitting replacements hoping that the owner won’t notice it. Others don’t even care to replace the lost fasteners or screws altogether.

If you see such mismatches, it might be an indication that the screws and fasteners were once removed for major repairs. You should also check other parts like the bolts holding the hood and the splash guards’ hinges. You might also consider seeking help from a professional car dealer or mechanic for an expert-level evaluation.

Abnormal sounds

One of the surefire ways to check if a car has been in an accident is by test-driving it and experiencing how smoothly or roughly it drives. If you notice strange sounds such as a cyclic squealing, it could be a sign of a damaged wheel or axle bearing. On the other hand, if there’s a tapping or metal knocking sound in the engine area, it could be signaling a damaged engine.

Other areas you should be very keen on are the steering wheel, brakes, electrical systems, and the transmission. For example, if you’re struggling to keep the car on track when driving, its steering wheel may be misaligned. Even worse, some of these problems may be due to a bent chassis that’s near impossible to realign.

Overall, if a car makes any funny noises or drives oddly, it could be due to a recent accident.

Get yourself a clean car!

So should you avoid all used cars that exhibit signs of being involved in an accident? Well, it depends. If the damage was minor or if the car has since been evaluated and repaired by a professional, there’s no reason to not go for it. What you should avoid are cars that exhibit signs of having suffered extensive damages or those whose owners seem to be hiding something.

When we buy a car from the public or from the auction, we pass it through a 124 point inspection that helps confirm that the car was never in a major accident.

Are you in the market for a used car in Houston but aren’t sure if it’s had an accident or not? Check out our used car inventory for thoroughly inspected vehicles with warranty. We guarantee you the best prices for used cars in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin TX. Give us a call on 713-660-8666 or fill out the contact form. We are always happy to serve you!