How to tell a used car has been in an accident

used car accident

Buying a used car is never an easy thing, especially on a tight budget and getting the right one can be even harder. Let’s rule out new cars as they’ve never been in an accident for obvious reasons, but what about used cars?

How can you tell the used car you’re buying has been involved in an accident?

Here’s our advice on what to look out for.

Paint job

Take a good look around the vehicle you plan to buy. If the paint doesn’t match all the way around, there’s a high chance the car has been involved in an accident and has been repainted.

On the surface, it may look all fine and dandy, but how can you tell? Look at the reflection of the finish. If there are any imperfections, then there is a potential problem.

Body panels

When all the doors, bonnet and boot are all closed, they should line up perfectly with other panels. If they do not, the vehicle has been repaired and even worse, had an accident!

Both the front and the rear bumper should line up straight too. If you notice they don’t align, stay away.


Tyres are a crucial part of a car as without them. You won’t be able to move anywhere without them. Double and triple checking them is encouraged.

If the tread feels uneven, it’s either worn down or misaligned due to chassis damage.

It’s worthwhile taking a look at the underbody and wheel wells and check for a fresh coat of rubberised undercoat. If spotted, this is a telltale sign of a quick fix for structural repair.

While you’re taking a good look at the tyres, check the date. Vehicles with expired tyres won’t pass registration.

What’s that smell?

Spotted a few too many air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror? Do you smell dampness? If this is the case, this could be an indication of flood damage.

If the dash lights, power windows or anything else electric isn’t working correctly, this is another indication of water damage. It could also be a short circuit which is also something to look out for.


The windshield is not only a clear view of what’s ahead, but it’s also a safety feature as it will stop unwanted debris from entering the cabin.

A small crack can compromise its structural integrity even if it’s the size of a grain of rice. Any small crack should be replaced immediately by the seller.

If the car you’re planning to buy has any stickers on the windshield, check underneath them. The RTA or equivalent in other Emirates will not allow you to register a car with a windshield crack.

Dubicars top tip: Don’t use the cracked windshield as a means to get the price down, it’s just not worth it.


Over time, headlights on vehicles tend to turn hazy and eventually develop a yellowish tint. If one looks clear and the other isn’t, there’s a chance the car has been involved in an accident.

Headlights should align on the front end as well. If they don’t match up, then they have been replaced with new ones.

Pop the bonnet and take a closer look at the front end and check for any damage.

What’s that noise?

Get behind the wheel and take the car for a quick spin. Turn off the radio and listen out for any strange noises that don’t seem normal.

Noises to listen out for;

  • Squealing – Wheel or axle bearing is failing or damaged.
  • Knocking/tapping in the engine bay – Damaged piston.
  • Heavy clunk when shifting gears – Diff needs to be replaced.
  • Grinding noise – Check to brakes and calipers.
  • Rattling – Something is loose somewhere in the car.

There are many more noises and rattles to be on the lookout for. If you hear anything out of the norm, then move on to the next car.

Dubicars top tip: Never buy a car without driving it!

Tap tap tap

While checking out the used car, tap the bodywork. If it sounds empty, then there’s nothing wrong. If you knock and it sounds full, the body panels are filled up with filler and means the car has had an accident.

Bonus: Dashboard lights

Turning the key partially in the ignition will illuminate the dashboard; this is a quick system check to ensure everything is in working order.

Turning the key, all the way and there are still lights ablaze then there is an issue. Here’s what you need to look out for;

  • Engine check (usually a yellow outline of an engine)
  • Oil lamp
  • Battery (Outline of a battery)
  • Electrical fault (Lighting bolt)

These are the many more lights, but these are the main ones.

We’d also recommend that when you’re buying a used car, you take a friend with you and/or a mechanic you trust. They’ll be your real eyes, ears and nose.

Anything we might have missed? What’s your advise? Let us know in the comments below.

Now that’s all been covered, has used cars for sale in Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Ajman.

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1 comment

  1. Hi, Great article

    I have been in the used car market for the past 10 years here in dubai, especially worked with and helped startup car buying services here in dubai. I am very much familiar with the market from the aspect of dealer and agents, however i have decided to switch and provide my expertise to consumers now. All of them basically face the same issue, whether its buying a used car or selling one, one way or the other they will have issue with price and the product. i have decided to help the consumers in this regards with my free of charge service. I have also written blogs where buyers and seller alike can get an expert’s point of view on the subjects of buying and selling. Your article does mention about how to check a car if it was in an accident or not. I will be writing a blog in this regards this coming weekend, which will take the reader idept as to what to look for and how to check, and options they have in order to verify the car they are buying. My site is called justcarprice and you can head over to the blog section and see my post ( 3 so far ) but they have tons of info on the basic and core of buying and selling..


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