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Old 09-05-2010, 08:16 PM
10,873 posts, read 41,191,303 times
Reputation: 14020


mrs1885 ... narrow your search down to the car(s) that appeal to you in your price range and models.

Look at several of each, at several new car dealers. Of those cars, select the one or two that most appeal to you.

Those are the cars that you need to take to an independent mechanic who specializes in those makes/models. A modest inspection should reveal what you need to know to make a good buying decision.

Don't attempt to evaluate the cars yourself. I don't believe that you can learn in a matter of a few brief paragraphs on this site what is a "tip off", or important, or non-critical prior damage to a car. It will be well worth your time and money to seek local professional help in your car buying trip.

I've been in this car game for over 48 years, and I've seen a lot of cars that fooled many buying folks as well as "experts" in the business when it came to significant damage that was properly ... or at least to a casual inspection ... repaired. The stuff that's really sloppy repair work is obvious to most of us in the business ... but there's a lot of very good quality repair work out there, too, which isn't so obvious.

Remember, when you are buying a used transportation vehicle, you are purchasing the remaining service life of the car. If you're buying a car for style or vanity, then it changes the dynamic entirely ... so keep your eye on what you're really purchasing. IMO, you'd do well to consult the Consumer Reports annual auto issue for their price points/models for a transportation car for your daughter. The models you've mentioned may not be very good cars for your needs at this time, so at least be aware before spending more time seeking a given model.

As an example, it's very misleading to take a blanket statement that a "car will shake at 65 mph" if it's been in an accident, because the wheels weren't replaced by an insurance company adjuster. Maybe in that buyer's experience ... but the cars I work on, they (the adjusters) don't overlook stuff like that. With 75 mph speed limits around my area, everybody has an opportunity to drive at least that fast ... and I've also seen bent rims from parking lot concrete stoppers hit at 15 mph without any other significant damage to the car. But you need to know how to evaluate that it's just the rim and not other bent suspension items ... and whether or not the price of the vehicle allows you to buy an installed replacement rim and still be on your budget.

Last edited by sunsprit; 09-05-2010 at 08:24 PM..
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Old 09-05-2010, 09:35 PM
13,714 posts, read 22,852,078 times
Reputation: 18526
Originally Posted by wilson1010 View Post
Any good mechanic or body shop guy will beable to spot significant wreckage. Carfax will report those wrecks where the title was transferred as a result of the wreck: auctions, insurance recovery, etc. But a car can be pretty badly wrecked with no Carfax info. Since you know nada, take it to a mechanic.
There are some very body shops out there who do some excellent work. I have sent cars out for $5-7k in repairs and been unable to see any evidence that the vehicle was ever in an accident.

And while Carfax does a good job, there is so much that does NOT get reported on.

The best bet is to have a trusted mechanic look it over However, there is no guarantee that all damage will be located.

The one GOOD thing with the advent of air bags, a lot of the severely damaged vehicles are now totaled out.
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Old 09-05-2010, 11:28 PM
10,485 posts, read 22,566,833 times
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Originally Posted by mrs1885 View Post
I know exactly zero about cars. The ones we're driving now I"m sure were all wrecked. I know the Eclipse was. I've had two people get under it and tell me it was. The tires on the Miata and the Explorer both wear funny, even after an alignment, so I"m guessing they were as well.

I"m selling two of the cars and buying one for our daughter. We've decided to downsize to a 2 vehicle family since 99% of the time one sits in the driveway anyway. At some point I'll go get a Solstice or something I like, but for now, this is what we're doing.

So, as I go car shopping with daughter, is there an easy way - other than Carfax - to tell if a car has been wrecked? A way to make sure it's in decent shape - other than paying a mechanic to spend the day with us? Any helpful hints? She's hoping for a small SUV (Explorer Sport or CRV or Jeep Liberty size) or a coupe, but leaving toward the SUV. She said the Eclipse was too fast for her and she felt uncomfy in something so small.
Put a magnet in a paper towel and go over the car with it. It sounds silly but it works because body repair chemicals will not stick to it.
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Old 09-06-2010, 07:54 AM
Location: Earth
4,227 posts, read 20,306,752 times
Reputation: 2210
Yes there's a way of telling if a car was/is wrecked. Look for mismatched paint, body lines that don't line up, excessive gaps between body panels. Also have someone drive the car while you ride in another car in front and behind the car in question. Often times if a car was broad sided it will side track.
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