Warning signs that a used car is a rebuilt wreck
If you're shopping for a car, buying
a late-model used one can often provide a great balance of value, reliability,
and safety. Such cars have already taken their initial big depreciation hit,
saving you significant money, plus there is less to finance and insurance will
be less. Buying used lets you put a better-equipped car in your driveway than
you may be able to afford new. However, a used vehicle can also be risky as you
may not know its history. Before you buy, check out our list of warning signs
that the vehicle may be a rebuilt wreck.
Telltale signs that a car is a rebuilt wreck:
- Paint that chips off or doesn't match indicates damage
repair and poor blending.
- Paint overspray on chrome, trim, or rubber seals around
body openings reveals that the adjacent panel was repaired.
- Misaligned fenders suggest a poor repair job or use of nonoriginal equipment manufacturer (non-OEM) parts.
- CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) sticker
on any part may indicate collision repair.
- Uneven tread wear reveals wheel misalignment, possibly
because of frame damage.
- Mold or air freshener cover-up suggests water damage
from a leak or flood.
- Silt in trunk may mean flood damage.
- Fresh undercoating on wheel wells, chassis, or engine
strongly suggests recent structural repairs covered up.
- Door that doesn't close correctly could point to a
door-frame deformation and poor repair.
- Hood or trunk that doesn't close squarely may indicate
twisting from side impact.
- Dashboard lights, power windows, and other electronics
with intermittent problems could be a sign of flood damage.
- Dashboard air-bag indicator that doesn't light up could
mean the air bag was replaced improperly--or wasn't replaced at all--after
- Big dents, kinks in structural components, or crimped
or crunched fuel lines and pipes underneath are the easiest problems to
find because rebuilders assume you won't be looking there.
- Uneven surfaces on frame components could be filler,
seam sealer, or welding beads.
- Damaged/gouged nuts and metal on top surface of strut
tower (which connects the front wheels to the frame) in engine compartment
may mean the frame was realigned.
- New metal on only one part of the hood apron shows
section repair rather than replacement of the entire apron piece.
- Welding bead anywhere on heavy frame members underneath
the engine suggests frame-rail sectioning or sloppy repair of a cutout
made in the rail to perform repair work.
- Inconsistent welds around hood apron, door, door frame,
or trunk exemplify a non-factory weld.
- Frayed safety belts or belt fibers that have melted
together because of friction indicate a previous frontal impact above 15
- Missing car emblem or name on trunk may mean a non-OEM
part was used.