Car Accident: Signs That a Car Has Been in One

NCC-Handsome bearded male customer examining car paint on a new auto at the dealership

You have searched online, visited local dealerships, checked out the buy and sell sections of local papers, and put the word out amongst friends and relatives. Finally, you have found a car within your price range, but now you want to ensure this car hasn’t been involved in a collision and sustained damage, and that’s where this article comes to the fore.

This easy-to-read article will tell you what car crash signs to look for when purchasing a used car. It is important to realize that much of the damage incurred when a car is involved in a collision is unseen. This is especially true if you don’t know what to look for. How to tell if a car has been in an accident? Here are tell-tale signs to watch out for that show an automobile has been involved in a collision.

Uneven Paint Wear

A car’s paint will typically wear in a comparatively uniform pattern. Areas exposed to intense sunlight or other adverse weather conditions may wear a little faster, but this is barely noticeable overall.

Given the uniformity of paint wear, one tell-tale sign that a car has been involved in an accident or, for whatever reason, has been damaged is a patch of paint that is obviously newer than the rest. A patch of new paint is often a sign of an attempt to cover up body damage.

Moreover, always look for parts of the car that are painted a different color than the car’s body. Parts painted a different color from the rest of the car can signify that the car has undergone a paint job for some reason. Often a new paint job on a particular panel indicates that the panel has been damaged and either repaired or replaced.

Misaligned Panels

A car’s panels are designed to follow predetermined slopes and shapes, giving the car body a distinctive look. Panels are also engineered to fit perfectly with one another, and one tell-tale sign that a car has been in an accident is when a panel is out of alignment and no longer fits perfectly.

Check the gaps in between the panels for any tell-tale signs of damage or repair. The gaps between panels should all be the same and consistent in size. If you find panel gaps that are a different size than the other gaps, this may indicate that significant bodywork has been done on the car. Or, at the very least, it is a sign that a panel has been damaged, repaired, or replaced.

New Airbag Panels

Airbags only deploy when sudden impact occurs. When they deploy, the plastic that contains them will break open. So, when buying a used car, always make it a point to check the airbag panels. If the airbag panels look newer than the rest of the car’s interior, they have been replaced. Replaced airbag panels indicate that the airbags have been employed, which means the car has experienced a significant and sudden impact, most likely due to a car accident.

Auto Putty

Instead of replacing the entire panel, which can be expensive and time-consuming, people will use body filler, also known as auto putty, when repairing a car. Auto putty on a car’s body is one of the most common car crash signs indicating that the car has been involved in a collision and experienced extensive damage, or at the very least, it indicates some level of damage.

Auto putty is designed to cover up as much as it is to repair, and as such, it can be hard to spot a putty repair using the naked eye. One way of testing for putty is to run a magnet over the panels, and if you find any areas where the magnet is not drawn towards it, then likely this is an area auto putty has been used.

Misplaced Welding

One tell-tale sign that a car has been subjected to impactful force and has had to be repaired is misplaced welding. Welding is used in repairing broken or misshaped metal, so if you see welding that looks out of place, this is a sign that the car has been subject to significant impact force. Always look under a car’s hood; if you see some welding that looks out of place, this is probably a sign that it has been involved in a car accident and has undergone significant repair work.

Uneven Chassis

A car’s chassis is level when it rolls off the factory floor. However, if it is subject to sudden and severe impact force, the car’s chassis can become bent and uneven. A car’s chassis should be level, and if it isn’t, then chances are this car has been involved in a collision and is subject to heavy impact force.

Mismatched Parts

A car’s main parts should always be original; if they are not, it is a good idea to ask the car owner about the car’s history to ensure you are not buying a car with accident history.

If you want more in-depth detail of the car’s history, you can ask for a vehicle history report. Always check the car for mismatched parts, as these are surefire tell-tale signs that the car has been involved in an accident. For example, check that the manufacturer of the front and rear windshields are the same. If different manufacturers make the windshields, this indicates that they have to be replaced and the car has probably been involved in a car accident.


There are many tell-tale signs that a car has been involved in an accident, including uneven paint wear, misaligned panels, extensive putty filler on the panels, misplaced welding, an uneven chassis, and mismatched parts. By looking for tell-tale signs, such as those indicated in this article, you will be more aware of the history and the condition of the car you are considering purchasing.

For near-perfect car body repairs, choose Northwest Collision Center.

We all value our cars, and often we would be lost without them. Our cars represent a financial investment and often an emotional investment as well. But perhaps most importantly, our cars are where we spend a large percentage of our time, and they are a form of transportation.

Unfortunately, car accidents are all too common, and when an accident does occur, and your car is damaged, you must get the car properly repaired to ensure your future safety.

If your car is involved in a collision and damaged, you can entrust it to the auto repair experts at Northwest Collision Center, which offer top-notch auto body repair in St. Petersburg, FL. Our team of experts has many years of experience and will ensure your car is repaired to an almost original pristine condition and is safe to transport yourself and others.

Picture of Greg Descent

Greg Descent

The proprietor of Northwest Collision Center, boasts a remarkable journey in the auto repair industry. Originating from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Greg spent his formative years in California, where he cultivated a deep passion for automotive work. In 1996, he seized the opportunity to acquire Northwest Collision Center, a reputable establishment founded in 1959 and situated on Tyrone Boulevard for over five decades. Greg's hands-on approach and dedication to the business have been pivotal since he first joined the team. Under his leadership, Northwest Collision Center has continued to thrive, maintaining its legacy of excellence and commitment to quality service in the automotive repair sector.

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