How to spot a car that's been in a wreck

Posted at 10:45 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 22:45:07-05

Our challengers found it difficult to choose.

We spent a recent afternoon asking people to take the spot a wreck challenge. The test proved tricky even for a veteran car dealer.

Carfax brought in three Nissan Altimas. We asked people to choose the car that had been repaired after a serious front end collision.

Only one of our challengers spotted the real wreck, but it was for the wrong reason.

Mechanic Danny Alcala showed us the top three telltale signs:

  • Misalignment of parts suggests a possible crash.
  • Look for discoloration as that could indicate new paint on replaced parts.
  • Check for scratches on screws and bolts on the car body under the hood. This would indicate the replacement of front end parts that have nothing to do with regular service.

None of our test takers noticed the paint discoloration or the marks on the bolts and only one spotted the orange peel looking paint on the door.

This is why Carfax’s Chris Basso says it’s critical to know the car’s history -- something a Carfax report can provide.

There are some people who will hide those problems and sell you a car without telling you about those issues.

Remember not every wreck is reported which is why it is critical to pull the car’s history and have a mechanic inspect the ride before you buy.

Carfax offers a free history report if you go through their Carfax used car listings.