The overwhelming majority of cars has not been in a major accident. However, according to a report by the television show 60 minutes, there are 1 million cars sold every year that have been a major accident, (Ie one serious enough to have the insurance company call the car totaled)
While this is a serious problem, that does not mean you should automatically rule out a car because it has been in a fender bender As long as there is no structural damage to the car, there is no need for you to worry. It is quite easy in this day and age to fix a few bent panels. If you think that the accident the car has been in is serious enough to potentially damage the frame though, the only thing you should do is walk away.
How can the average person tell if the car has been in an accident? It is not at all easy to tell, often times it is still very difficult for professionals to be able to tell. A great body shop can turn a total wreck into a passably new car. That said, they will still have a difficult time hiding the work from a professional inspection. This is just another advantage of a professional inspection, which should be a required part of every used auto sale. A mechanic can confirm the work that might have needed to be done to the auto.
The easiest way for you to tell if the car has been in an accident is to suddenly ask the seller if it has been in an accident. Watch carefully and closely their reaction since a sudden question like that will cause people to show their true emotions.
Some ways you can check the car yourself for tell tale signs are to look for signs of body repair. You will want to go over the body of the car looking for overspray anywhere on the car. When a car gets totally repainted there is often some overspray on rubber gaskets, on the side edges of windows, and on door moldings. Another common area where you can spot painting mistakes is to look at the spare tire, the luggage compartment and the rocker panels. Oftentimes the paint companies will not bother to do these. Look closely at the overall state of the paint. Many times a repainted car will have uneven layers in the paint itself.
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