The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Car Shoppers Need to Know Signs of Vehicle Accident Damage, Survey Finds

CarMax's Car-Buying Experts Give Tips to Spot Hidden Damage Indicators

RICHMOND, Va., Aug. 23 -- Most people do not know the biggest warning sign that a vehicle may have been in a major accident, according to a recent poll conducted by CarMax, Inc., the nation's largest retailer of used cars.

More than 70 percent of respondents said that repainting the car is the strongest indicator. According to CarMax's car-buying experts, however, clamp marks on a vehicle's frame are the biggest sign that the car may have been involved in a serious collision.

"A car might be repainted to address cosmetic issues rather than a serious accident," said David Claeys, purchasing manager for CarMax in Richmond. "Paint work isn't as big of an indicator as clamp marks on the frame of the vehicle. People should look beyond the paint job when considering buying a used vehicle and consider several other factors in order to spot hidden signs of prior vehicle damage."

The following are the results of the poll of 47,500 visitors who were asked to list the strongest indicator that a car has been in a major accident.

     Indicator       Percent    Number of Respondents

   * Repainting        72%         34,200
   * Clamp marks       16%          7,600
   * Bumps and dents   10%          4,750
   * Scratches          2%            950

"Car shoppers need to be on the look out for signs that a car may have been in a bad accident, as the safety and resale value of the car may have been compromised," said Claeys. "Cars that have had severe structural damage can be completely repaired, retitled, and sold to an unsuspecting buyer. Minor fender benders that do not compromise the integrity of the vehicle are not as much of a concern."

CarMax's nationwide team of approximately 650 car-buying experts has appraised more than 5 million cars. These buyers are trained to detect possible signs of whether a car has been in a major accident. CarMax will not sell any car that has frame or flood damage or an odometer discrepancy.

CarMax's expert car buying team recommends the following tips to help determine whether a vehicle may have been in a serious accident.

  * Look for clamp marks on the frame rail under the car in the front or the
    back.  Clamp marks look like holes or gashes on the frame of the
    vehicle.  Clamp marks usually indicate that the car has been on a frame
    machine, which suggests the vehicle may have been in a serious accident.

  * Check the bolts used to fasten fenders, doors and the trunk lid to see
    whether the paint is broken or bolts are turned, which could indicate
    the bolts were removed for body repairs to the vehicle.

  * Peel back the fabric that lines the trunk and look for welding marks or
    body filler, which may indicate that repairs were made on the body of
    the vehicle.

  * Look for signs of repainting on the car, such as inconsistency in the
    paintwork or paint on the molding or gaskets.  Run your finger along the
    inside door edge and see if the finish is smooth or rough.  A rough
    finish can be caused by overspray during repainting.  If signs of
    repainting are found, ask additional questions to determine if the
    paintwork was for minor scratches and dents or to cover up a more
    serious accident.

  * Listen for any engine noise when you test drive a vehicle.  A major
    accident can cause damage to any part of the engine.  Ask questions
    about any noise that sounds unusual.

  * Check to see if all the doors, the hood, and trunk lid close properly.
    If they don't, this could indicate the use of replacement parts due to a
    major accident.

  * Check to see if the odometer clicks off miles when the vehicle is

  * Check the VIN number on the dashboard and see if it matches the VIN
    number on the sticker inside the door of the vehicle.  If there is not a
    match, the door may have been replaced.

  * Review reports from AutoChek or CarFax with the vehicle identification
    number to determine if there are any reports that the vehicle was
    stolen, declared a lemon, or was previously involved in a serious

CarMax will buy any car, whether or not the seller purchases a CarMax vehicle. Cars that do not meet CarMax's stringent mechanical, electrical, and safety standards are sold to dealers at in-store wholesale auctions. More than half of the cars the company retails are purchased directly from consumers.