Should You Buy a Car with an Accident History?

Between 2012 and 2020, the Canadian used car market nearly doubled in size, going up from $6 billion to over $11 billion. It’s clear that buying used is becoming more common and there’s plenty of advice out there for inexperienced buyers to help them through the process.

However, buying a used car with an accident history is understandably a little more contentious. A dealer might not know the full extent of a car’s damage history, or how severe the reported damage was. And the actual damage itself can lead to unpredictable issues down the road. These reasons cause many used car buyers to reject the notion of buying any vehicle that’s been in an accident.

With that said, you can’t overlook the many advantages of buying a used car with some history of damage. In this quick primer, we take a look at the pros and cons of buying a used car with an accident history, and we’ll show you how to identify this history if it’s not immediately available to you.

Damage history: why every fender bender counts

Let’s take a look at the big picture: Why does every little dent and scratch matter? The fact is, any kind of accident can have unpredictable consequences on a car's performance. These consequences are often invisible during a quick inspection. For instance, a small bump on the rear end that seemed to leave no cosmetic damage could have impacted its suspension.

These details are why every car in every accident should be given a full damage inspection by a thorough mechanic. However, this doesn't always happen for used vehicles, and even if repairs were made, there isn't always a guarantee that the car will be back in full, fresh-off-the-assembly-line performance. On top of this, other parts that weren't necessarily severely damaged in the accident, have still gone through quite a bit of stress and may fail earlier than usual. Ultimately, damages to a vehicle can affect its overall value.

Weighing the pros and cons

There are some great incentives for buying a damaged car, especially if the damage is minimal.

For buyers, one of the most significant benefits is the lower retail price. Used cars that have been in an accident are, on average, 60% of the price of undamaged cars, even if the repairs are flawless. That not only lets you buy cars for less but also gives you access to premium models from top-tier brands like Porsche, at the cost of an otherwise economy brand budget vehicle. Also, you can leverage the car’s accident history to negotiate for better prices.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Because an accident history impacts vehicle value, a used car in bad condition is no longer considered an asset. If the history report is a rather serious one, it also makes it difficult to resell and refinance your damaged vehicle.

How to evaluate a damaged Car

When buying a car, don’t get taken for a ride. Some private sellers or dealers may disguise the long-term effects of vehicle accident damage with cosmetics to entice shoppers into buying them. Here’s how to evaluate a previously damaged vehicle.

Get a vehicle history report

The first thing you need to do is to get a full vehicle history report from a service like CARFAX. From here, you’ll learn everything from registration history to 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. Remember to take note of when and when the vehicle was sold; if the vehicle was sold shortly after an accident, it could be a red flag!

Have a professional inspect the vehicle

One of the 10 mistakes buyers make when buying cars is not being thorough enough with their inspection and testing. That’s why it’s important to consult with a trusted mechanic to assess the damage history and each component of the vehicle beforehand.

Get a professional exterior and interior evaluation by hiring a licensed mechanic to conduct a pre-purchase damage inspection. Pay attention to every small detail and follow these tips so you can purchase with confidence.

Make sure that your mechanic inspects the quality of its post-accident damage repair work – if a skillful and reputable mechanic didn't do the repairs, you could encounter more problems down the line. Only buy from a trusted seller to make sure that everything will work well for years to come.

Request a test drive

After you’ve evaluated the vehicle damage history, it’s time to test drive the vehicle and make sure everything is in working order. You should also check the mileage by looking at how many kilometres have been driven since the accident. Counting at least 19,000 kilometres a year is a fair number and always be on the lookout for any noises while driving.

Consider insurance cost before buying a used car

You need car insurance before you can register the title ownership of a new or used car. So before making a purchase, it’s crucial to factor in how much more money you might have to put into the vehicle. The key to securing insurance is making sure you buy more of an asset than a liability. Here are the two types of accidents that will affect your opportunity to finance, refinance, or resell your damaged vehicle:

  1. Minor accident. Simple repairs to cosmetic damage such as scrapes are acceptable; they could be seen as a means for buyers to get reasonable deals and easily fix them up at a body shop.
  2. Major accident. If a vehicle is totalled from being involved in a serious collision, it could be taken by the insurance company or sold with salvage titles. Vehicles that are resold as salvages may have severe frame damage, so it isn’t a good idea to buy them for safety reasons. Salvage title vehicles may also bring you more financial problems considering that banks and lenders won’t accept severely damaged vehicles for auto insurance claims.

Should you buy a car with an accident history?

While a used car costs significantly less, you should take the necessary steps to ensure you’re buying something that works as advertised. If you’re considering a used car purchase, always look at the damage history, what type of car it is, and how good its condition is after repair. A used vehicle is an affordable option for purchasing a vehicle, but don’t neglect the possible damages and repairs that could rack up the cost in the future. It also helps to make sure you get your money’s worth by finding a trustworthy car dealership in your area.

Where can you buy reliable used cars in Canada? is a reputable source to shop online for used cars in Canada, and you can expect full disclosure if any vehicle has a damage history report. You can choose from a list of high-quality vehicles with affordable pricing and view insurance quotes for each vehicle you want.

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