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Used Cars With A Damage History: Are They Worth It?

Rachel Horan

Rachel Horan

June 22, 20214 minute read
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Quality Checked

One of the biggest risks when buying a used car is it’s history. Was the previous owner a responsible driver? Did they take reasonable care of the vehicle when it was theirs? Unfortunately, accidents happen. If you know that a car has been in an accident in the past, or sustained any other damage, is it still worth purchasing?

On this page:

    In this guide, we’ll discuss cars with a damage history, what this can mean for you, and whether it’s still worth purchasing a car if it has been damaged.

    What is a damage history?

    If a car has a damage history, this means that it has been in an accident or sustained damage in the past. When you are purchasing a car second-hand, the seller is required to sell it to you in the way it is advertised. Meaning, it must be of ‘acceptable quality’.

    According to Legal Aid Queensland, ‘acceptable quality’ means the quality and description of the car is appropriate for the car’s purchase price. Any representations about the car must be relevant and accurate.

    If a car has an undisclosed defect that makes it undrivable, and the price you paid is unreasonable given this defect, you could have a claim against the motor dealer.

    What kinds of damage can a car sustain?

    In addition to a car accident, there are other types of damage a car can sustain that means it has a damage history. This could include, but is not limited to, cars that have been flood affected and had storm or hail damage.

    A car that has been under water during a storm or flood is increasingly susceptible to mechanical problems in the future and has a high risk of rust damage. Severely flood affected cars are written off, meaning they can no longer be driven, registered, or sold. Less severe flood damage is considered a ‘repairable write-off’, meaning it can be repaired, inspected and, eventually, sold again.

    Storm and hail damaged cars can appear dimpled on the outside, but there could be other internal problems that aren’t initially visible. The water could have affected the car’s electronics, causing damage to the inner workings of the car. If so, is this damage covered by the statutory or other warranty? This is an important consideration when purchasing damaged cars.

    What are the implications of buying a damaged car?

    Buying a car that you know has sustained damage in the past can sometimes mean getting a bargain, but sometimes, it can leave you with an expensive bill. Unless you’re a mechanic, you won’t know the real extent of the damage until you get the car assessed.


    An important note

    Some insurers only offer third-party insurance to cars that have been hail damaged. If you want to have fully comprehensive car insurance, this might not be possible depending on the extent of the damage to the vehicle.

    You don’t need to purchase a car in it’s damaged state. Instead, you could buy a refurbished car with a damage history. According to CarHistory, cars that have been refurbished are worth 60% of the similar models that have never been in a crash. However, a refurbished car could break down, handle strangely, or even feel clunky when you drive it, which is something that should be considered.

    Essentially, buying a damaged car comes with an increased risk of things going wrong. Knowing it has been damaged in the past means that if problems arise, they are your responsibility to fix.

    Should I buy a car with a damage history?

    Ultimately, the choice is yours if you want to purchase a car with previous damage. However, there are things you can do to minimise the risk before you purchase. Unfortunately, there’s never going to be any guarantee that nothing will go wrong with a second hand car, especially if it has been in an accident or damaged in the past.

    Get a vehicle history report

    You might want to look into the car’s history before going any further in the purchase process. You can obtain a car history report that details any finance owing on the car, whether it has been stolen, an odometer check, a written off check, and a vehicle valuation.

    Get a mechanic to inspect the vehicle

    A mechanic can give you a pretty accurate idea of the damage to a car, the extent of this damage, and whether it will cause problems again in the future. Ensure to ask them to focus on the damage, the quality of the repairs, and whether it is drivable.

    Request a test drive

    To avoid an unfortunate surprise, ask the dealer for a test drive before you sign any paperwork. This way, you can decide for yourself whether it feels clunky or uneasy to drive. Pay attention to any noises you hear, the ability to shift gears in a manual car, and check that all the features like aircon, windscreen wipers, and indicators are working correctly.

    Get a safety certificate

    You should also ensure that you get a safety certificate, also known as a roadworthy certificate in some states, that states that the vehicle meets certain minimum safety standards.

    Copyright © www.jacarandafinance.com.au Jacaranda Finance Pty Ltd ® ABN 53 162 078 195 Australian Credit Licence 456 404, Pawnbroking License Number 4221738. The information on this web-page is general information and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Information provided on this website is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice.

    Rachel Horan
    Rachel Horan

    Written by Rachel Horan

    Rachel Horan is a Content Writer for Jacaranda Finance. Rachel has previously produced content for Brisbane City Council, Black & White Cabs, and Clubs Queensland. She has a Bachelor of Mass Communication with Distinction from the Queensland University of Technology.

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