Road accidents happen all the time. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least two million people suffer from injuries annually because of motor vehicle crashes. No less than 32,000 people die. And despite the advancement in technology and better driving guidelines, the crash death rate in the country doubled the average of that of other developed countries.
Why do drivers and other road users meet an accident? About 25 percent of the road crashes occur due to distracted driving, said National Safety Council (NSC). It can be texting or talking on the phone. It can also be looking at your passenger side to talk. It can also happen when you get yourself busy picking up objects inside your car while your hands are on the wheel – it’s anything that takes your mind and eyes off the road.
One of the primary reasons is driving under the influence. Drunk driving alone results to over 40 percent of all road deaths. Not only does drinking make you sleepy and tired, but it also impairs your judgment and slows down your reaction time. These conditions, though, can happen to drivers who are severely fatigued or stressed.
Accidents can also affect the condition of the vehicle. Depending on the type of accident, the problems may further endanger lives as soon as it’s back on the road. Sadly not all drivers who experience an accident take the time to repair their vehicle. They even sell it!
If you’re one of those who buy used cars, it’s important you pay attention to a lot of things, including the kinds of vehicle damage. Sometimes it takes more than a mere eye checkup, but when you know what to look, you can avoid paying for a lemon (unless that’s the goal in mind).
Kinds of Accidents and Damage
The damages you should look for in a car depend on the type of accident it met. Some of the most common ones include:
Side Impact – A side impact collision happens on the side of the vehicle. It can be hit by an object or the front or, rarely, the rear of another vehicle. There are many ways this can occur. It usually happens while traversing an intersection. It’s either the other didn’t follow the traffic signs or you didn’t. You could be pulling out of the driveway and a speeding vehicle is going in your direction.
Side-impact collisions are one of the most dangerous kinds of collisions. It increases the risk of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) thrice as high as other forms of impact. It also causes more than 9,000 deaths annually. The injury is substantial doctors normally assume a TBI once the patient comes in. And because of the possible impact, it normally results to a moderate to severe damage to the vehicle.
Rear End – A rear-end collision is characterized by a damage at the back of the vehicle. And usually it happens because one is either decelerating or accelerating. It can be you suddenly stopped or slowed down while the car behind you is increasing its speed. It can also happen when you suddenly try to move your car back while the one at the back is not moving.
The vehicle damage can be minor to severe, depending on the impact. The most common injury sustained is whiplash.
Head-on – It is a collision that occurs when two front end of the cars meet upon impact. The vehicle damage often ranges from moderate to severe since it is usually assumed both are traveling at top speed. Because of the damage and impact, it is one of the leading causes of fatalities in road crashes. It can also result to permanent disability especially since it increases injuries to the spine and the neck. Fortunately, seatbelts and air bags have reduced head-on fatalities significantly.
Sideswipe – A sideswipe collision happens when a parallel vehicle touches or grazes your car. Commonly, your vehicle will suffer scratches. It seldom results to severe damage unless it causes your car to careen after you lose control of the vehicle. It happens when you attempt to bring your vehicle away from the parallel car a little too late.
Accidents can also be described as single or multiple. In a single accident, it’s either only two cars are involved, or it’s only your car that has met an accident. You may have hit a pole or injured a passerby. A multiple accident is called a pileup, and it normally happens in a busy street where cars are bumper to bumper. Between the two, the multiple vehicle collisions are riskier since you can get hit on different sides, such as the front and the back, simultaneously. Moreover, it may not be easy to get help.
With these in mind, here are the common types of accident damage:
Minor – A minor damage doesn’t affect the structure or the framework of the vehicle, and more often than not, it is only superficial – that is, affects only the coating. A good example is a scratch. Broken headlights or floodlights as well as small dents on the hood or bumper can also be considered minor.
Moderate – A moderate damage shows quite a slight change on the framework or structure. The dents may be more prominent. It’s possible the roof also receives damage. Scratches, dents, and dings are also present.
Severe – A severe damage means a significant change to the shape of the vehicle. It may mean a loss of a part like the driver or a passenger door, a smashed windshield, or a busted tire.
Why Should You Check for Vehicle Damage?
Is it possible to buy a damaged vehicle? The answer is yes, and many do. One of the foremost reasons is the cheap price. It’s possible to get one for as much as 70 percent its book value. That spells a lot of savings for you. The damaged vehicles can vary in terms of size, color, and model, so you have plenty of options. You can snag a more recent model or even the vehicle you’ve always wanted.
But there’s more to the cheap price. A damaged vehicle can be considered salvaged or lemon. Now what do these terms mean?
- Salvaged – A salvaged car is a totaled vehicle. It means the insurer deemed it so damaged that the owner’s claim isn’t enough to cover for the worth of the vehicle. A driver needs to secure a title for that, stating the vehicle has been salvaged.
Will a salvaged vehicle still run? Yes, it can. And a lot of new owners can successfully bring new life to the vehicle. By this time the car will have a rebuilt title, but it still remains to be a salvaged car.
Note: One more thing to remember about salvaged cars. Thieves can sell their stolen vehicles as salvaged.
- Lemon – A lemon is a term associated with car issues and flaws. Usually, it refers to new cars with serious defects the vehicles eventually become useless. But it can also cover used cars if the vehicle is covered by a warranty, which can be a manufacturer’s warranty, dealer’s warranty, or an extended warranty. The keyword here is expressed.
Besides safety, another concern for buying damaged cars is insurance. Although you can still get vehicle covered – and you should – more often than not, you’ll be paying a very high premium. Second, you won’t get the most comprehensive coverage. Usually, insurers offer the general liability insurance only.
If these are the risks you’re willing to take, however, then you can start buying them in various places including auctions.
Why Should You Buy a Damaged Vehicle in an Auction?
Auctions are some of the best places to see and buy damaged vehicles or those with junk titles. It’s because:
- You can see a lot of them in one go.
- You have a greater control over your choices. There’s no dealer who’s trying to sugarcoat damaged vehicles so you will buy them.
- You can bid on many cars. This comes handy when you’re planning to buy a vehicle at the end of the day.
- You will have enough time to inspect the vehicle.
The last one usually happens a day before the actual auction. It is called viewing. You can inspect the vehicle or even test drive it to determine the overall condition or quality of the vehicle.
Anyone who’s planning to buy a car, whether damaged or not, should take advantage of this opportunity. In fact, you should bring your own mechanic to help you evaluate the vehicle. But whether you want to do the inspection yourself or not, you need to know what to look for:
- Signs of new paint – How do you know if the car is newly painted? One, check the age of the vehicle. If it’s already 3 to 5 years old, you shouldn’t expect a sedan looking as if it’s fresh from the shop. There should already be some signs of flaking and discoloration. You can also try to see if the paint is even.
A new paint doesn’t have to mean there’s a vehicle problem. Perhaps the owner just wants the car to look really good so it sells fast. But it should be enough for you to investigate further. Paint can be used to cover scratches and rusting.
- Reflection – Another way to evaluate a car is to look at the reflection. A car in good condition will always have smooth and clean lines. If it’s not, there’s a good chance a part of it has been repaired and then concealed by a brand-new coat of paint.
- History records – Never fail to check the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). VIN is a 17-character series that is unique in every vehicle. It can be found near the windshield, the driver’s side’s door jamb and the fire wall of the engine. You can input that into the VIN Lookup Tool of National Highway Traffic Administration to get a better idea about the vehicle, like model, year, and color. You can also use the same VIN for Carfax, where you can verify the history records of the vehicle. Did it meet an accident? Is it salvage or rebuilt? If it is, then the car should have a corresponding title saying so.
- Hoods and bumpers – Look at every nook and cranny. Do you notice something that’s dented? In a lot of cases, these are often overlooked during repair.
- Air bag – Check if the vehicle still has an air bag. Replacing air bags can cost as much as a thousand dollars for each, so some owners don’t bother to get another one. If there’s an airbag, check the steering wheel. Does it look brand new? When airbags are replaced, so is the steering wheel most of the time.
- Seatbelts – Older models that have been used as a family vehicle should have seatbelts with signs of wear and tear. The color may be faded and there may be parts that are already frayed unless the owner has replaced them prior to the sale. If this is the case, you can check the bolts of the seatbelts. Do they look brand new?
Try to look underneath as well, especially on the front and the back. There, you can spot some tell-tale signs of accidents or red flags. An example is an overspray, which should indicate the car is newly painted. Check the bolts as well. If they have marks, it’s more likely the car has already experienced an accident. Sometimes these bolts can also be covered by an overspray.
It takes more than a pair of eyes to cover everything. Thus, it’s always recommended you bring along a mechanic with you. Now what should you do if the car is damaged? You have the option to buy it or not, but if it’s the former, go beyond the resale or bid price. Think of the repair costs and insurance premium. Consider the possibility of having it fully restored and in good running condition. Is the car you’re looking at still worth it? If not, then move on. There are others waiting for your inspection.