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Finding the perfect used car can be difficult, especially if you have something specific in mind. So, what should you do if you’ve found the perfect match—a car that’s the right model and year, comes equipped with all the interior features you hoped for, and has an exterior that’s just your style—but it’s been in an accident?
It may feel taboo to buy a car that’s been in an accident, but for your dream car, it might just be worth it.
Here are some reasons for and against buying a used car that’s been in an accident, as well as some advice for what to do if you decide to buy a car that’s been in an accident.
In the end, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether it’s the right decision for you. Buying a car is a big decision, and it's key to be informed before you take the leap.
Why you should consider buying a car that’s been in an accident
While many drivers have an automatic stigma against cars that have been in accidents, this isn’t necessarily rational—in fact, according to Carfax, around 40% of all vehicles on American roads have been damaged in some way, meaning that finding a car that hasn’t been touched by bad luck could be difficult.
A total of 5% of these vehicles have had their airbags deployed—which means that about 5 million cars currently on American roads have been in, or at least had a brush with, an accident. If you're a car-buyer who is skeptical of cars that have been in an accident, that’s a lot of cars to discount.
In addition to availability, there’s another good reason to buy a used car that’s been in an accident: affordability.
On average, a car that’s been in an accident is likely to be around $500 cheaper than a used car that has the same specs but hasn’t been in an accident. That’s right—turns out that your stigma against cars that have been in an accident could be costing you money.
Why you shouldn’t consider buying a car that’s been in an accident
It may seem obvious, but Autotrader breaks it down: the reason you shouldn’t buy a car that’s been in an accident is that it’s likely to have sustained long-term damage. Even after taking it to the repair shop, the accident could continue to cause unpredictable issues throughout the car’s lifetime.
Moreover, it’s hard to guarantee that the repair shop you take your car to will fix it adequately, rather than simply opting for a “quick fix.” According to Motor Biscuit, it’s especially difficult to fix a car after it’s been in an accident, meaning that it becomes risky to trust the quality of repair you’re going to get.
On top of that, buying a car that’s been in an accident may make you nervous, in which case it’s probably not worth it.
Advice for buying a car that’s been in an accident
Let’s say you decide that it is worth it for you to buy that used car: it’s the model of your dreams, the price is right, and so on. What should you do to ensure it’s as safe and damage-free as possible?
First, Motor Biscuit recommends that you take a look at your new car’s vehicle history report, which will help you understand what the car has been through, as well as give you key information on its title.
Car-buyers should try to avoid cars with a “salvage” title, which indicates that the car has suffered extensive damage. Conversely, a “rebuilt” title is a much safer bet, as it means that the state has inspected the car and deemed it up to safety standards.
Second, Motor Biscuit encourages buyers to make sure that their car was fixed at a trustworthy and reputable car repair shop. This information might be found in the vehicle history report, though it’s not a bad idea to get a second opinion from a mechanic you trust regardless.
Third, Autotrader recommends taking a look at how bad the accident was using a web service such as Carfax. Often, Carfax will go into detail about a car’s accident history, letting you know if the damage sustained was major or minor.
Fourth, keep in mind that even though the car’s price may have been lower, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re saving money in the long run. Autotrader points out that a car that’s been in an accident is bound to have a lower resale value, as the future buyer will also be aware of the vehicle’s history.
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with buying a used car that’s been in an accident, as long as you’ve done your research and ensured that it’s the right choice for you.