Tips to Spot a Poorly Repaired Used Vehicle

If you are buying a pre-owned vehicle then the vendor should be upfront about if the car has ever had any previous repairs, whether this is due to an accident or just general wear and tear. The vehicle should also of course be supplied with a full service history that logs any such repairs.

Just because a vehicle has required repairs in the past does not necessarily mean that it is a bad car to buy in the present. A well repaired, pre-owned car will be just as likely to provide years of service – provided of course that these repairs have been well handled by qualified staff.

Here are a few pointers if you are looking at a pre-owned car with a repair job in its service history:

Is it clean?

Body shops and car garages can be some of the dirtiest places around! Therefore if the car is nice and clean, then the staff who completed the repairs went the extra mile to protect the car from dirt, and clean it up afterwards. That level will usually – though not always – translate to good work with the repair itself.

Check Alignments

This is particularly important with repairs to previous collision damage. Check that the gaps between tire and fender are even and match on both sides. Turn on the headlights and ensure that the beams align – if they are out of synch, something is off with the car! Finally, ensure that all the doors and the trunk and hood all close smoothly and gaps between the doors and bodywork are all even.


It can be difficult for a body shop or garage to exactly match the original factory paint – especially with older cars that may have been finished with a paint that no longer exists! That being said, a good body shop or garage will always try to match as close as possible to the original paintwork colors. Always ensure that you view your potential vehicle in as bright light as possible, daylight being the best option. The finish can be just as important as the color itself, so be sure to closely inspect any repainted panels for signs of poor re-spraying, like hairs, dirt or other debris caught in the paintwork. Like being clean, a good paintjob is not a guarantee that the repairs underneath are sound. On the other hand, a poor paintjob indicates a body shop or garage that is careless, and likely to complete a poor repair.


These are the most straightforward ways to check for a poor repair, and should be within the capabilities of just about any potential car owner. For more in depth investigation of repairs, then it is always a good idea to get a second opinion from a qualified person such as a mechanic. It’s also with bearing in mind that even if the vehicle fails one of these tests, it’s still worth getting the second opinion of a mechanic. A small defect could be easy to repair in the right hands, so don’t write off a pre-owned car just because it has had some work in it’s past.

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