Has My Car Been in an Accident?

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: January 27, 2024

While it might not be the first question you ask yourself when buying a new car – whether the vehicle you’re buying has been in an accident can affect everything from insurance costs to the lifetime of certain parts… So it’s well worth finding out!

Somewhat frustratingly, however, whether a car has been in an accident is one of the easiest things to hide from a less savvy buyer. A well-polished exterior can conceal all kinds of horrors from an unsuspecting eye!

But fear not! With our free car check, you can uncover everything there is to know about the second-hand car you’re thinking of buying.

You just need the car’s reg plate to benefit from our free car check. Or, you can pay a small fee for a comprehensive rundown on the vehicle’s history, including any accidents it has been involved in, whether the car has ever been written off, and even hard-to-spot issues like mileage anomalies!

Remember, any time you buy a used car, you are entering into a relationship of trust with the seller. But that doesn’t mean you have to believe everything they say!

Even if you’re buying from a reputable used car dealer, there are things you can do to protect yourself and give you confidence in the sale.

How can I tell if a car I’m considering buying has been in an accident?

The easiest way to find out if a particular car has ever been in an accident is by running a car check. With our premium report, you can be sure that any accidents that have led to an insurance claim in the vehicle’s past will come up, even if the seller wasn’t aware of them themselves!

This can be particularly helpful for older cars with a long chain of ownership that might have lost some of their paperwork along the way.

There are also some tell-tale signs that an accident has happened at some point in a car’s past that you can easily see for yourself if you know what to look for.

Keep an eye out for anything on this list, and if neither the seller nor your sleuthing can explain the damage or repairs, then it’s time to walk away!

Issues with the paint job

Inconsistencies in the paint or finish on a vehicle are a good indicator that something has been repaired, and a poorly matched touch-up shows it probably wasn’t fixed by a registered dealer!

If the vehicle has a gloss or chrome finish, you’ll also be able to see any scrapes or dents if you look from the right angle.

A good top is to get a torch or the light on your smartphone out and shine it along the wing of a car you’re viewing – even the tiniest imperfections will show up as a wonky reflection, and you can spot faint scratches and scrapes that might otherwise be missed.

Cracks and fillers

When a car is involved in an accident that damages the bumper, the owner should replace it immediately.

Bumpers are essential for reducing the force of an impact, and any cracks in the front or back can lead to more severe injuries if the car is involved in another collision.

Check for damage to the front and back bumper and ask the seller about anything that doesn’t look right – if the bumper looks like it has taken damage and has simply been touched up instead of replaced, then who knows what else is lurking where you can’t see it!

Body filler products are another sign that something has been repaired when it might have been better replaced. While these types of products can help repair non-structural damage, they need to be mixed and applied very carefully to avoid causing problems down the line, and you just don’t know the quality of a DIY repair.

If you see any repairs on a car and you’re not confident in what the seller has to say about them… Running an online car check can give you a definitive answer on whether there has been a reportable accident or if major repairs took place on a past MOT.

Mismatched parts

Hinges or bolts that don’t match the ones on the rest of the vehicle can be a tell-tale sign of repairs.

Of course, bolts and hinges do wear out over time and need replacing, so newer bolts on an older car can indicate that it’s been well taken care of…

However, if the vehicle is only supposed to be a few years old or looks brand new apart from the mismatches, then it’s worth digging a bit deeper to avoid nasty surprises.

Registered service centres and garages usually use matching parts ordered from the manufacturer, so glaring differences often indicate a less professional repair job. You may want to check any fixes have been completed to a high level if this is something you notice when inspecting a used car.

If the seller tells you a car has a full manufacturer’s service history, then non-manufacturer parts should definitely ring alarm bells.

Uneven tire wear and poor tracking

Uneven tread could just mean the tracking is off, but certain kinds of accidents can cause damage to the tires on one side. In addition, poorly done repairs can result in dangerous unevenness in the chassis and wear out one side faster than the other.

An easy way to check the tracking is to reverse a short distance without your hands on the wheel and check the tracks left behind are straight and parallel. Minor tracking issues are nothing to worry about, but if they’re left unattended, they can cause more issues that are harder to fix.

A full car service should include a wheel alignment. So, if the seller has had the car serviced recently, there shouldn’t be any significant issues unless there’s something they’ve not told you.

A professional wheel alignment can sort any minor tracking issues when you take ownership of the car.

Welding marks

Evidence of significant welding is probably the number one indicator that something major has happened to a car. Still, this is not always easy to spot, and an unscrupulous seller may rely on you not being able to see the evidence.

When inspecting a used car, you’ll want to check:

  • Inside and outside the entire vehicle,
  • Underneath the chassis,
  • Inside the engine bay

Major repairs don’t necessarily mean the car’s a dud. But, if you’ve been told that it’s had no significant work done and you find evidence of something as serious as a weld mark, you need to perform further checks.

Used airbags

Used airbags are a tell-tale sign that the car has been in a head-on collision at some point. If an airbag has gone off, then it is vital to replace the entire assembly to ensure it’s ready to deploy again if there is another accident.

That said, replacing the entire assembly and associated electronics can be very expensive. So, unscrupulous individuals or dealers might try to repair the exterior damage without actually replacing the airbags. It’s important to know that both airbags are present and ready to deploy for your peace of mind while driving.

Check the covers over the airbags, including the part of the dash where the passenger airbag deploys. If there are any cracks, or some of the parts look much newer than the rest of the car, and the seller tries to tell you they’ve never been deployed, steer well clear!

To quickly check whether there are any potential problems with the airbags in a car, you can simply turn the car on. If everything is fine, the airbag light on the dashboard should illuminate briefly and then go out. If the light doesn’t come on or stays illuminated after the first flash, there’s a problem with the airbags that you’ll need to deal with.

Online checks and confirmation:

Physically inspecting a car can only tell you so much, especially if it’s had a lot of owners and the person you’re buying from doesn’t know the whole history.

full vehicle check will show any reported accidents and give you the MOT history to highlight any major issues the car has had in the past (or reassure you that everything is as it should be).

A complete online check can confirm anything the seller has told you or flag up issues they haven’t mentioned that you need to investigate further. It will also tell you if the car has ever been written off, cloned, or scrapped.


There are a few questions about the history of a car and how to get to the bottom of it that we get asked over and over again. We’ve put together this handy guide to ensure you’re prepared to ask the right questions next time you’re buying a used car.

Can a car be made road legal, even if it was an insurance write-off?

A vehicle is written off when the insurance company decides that the vehicle’s value is less than the cost of repairs. This does not necessarily mean a car has been irreparably damaged.

There are several different categories of insurance write-offs. These indicate whether the car can ever be driven again. An online car check will tell you whether a vehicle has ever been written off and what category it fell into:

Category A and B write-offs mean that the vehicle has been irreparably damaged and can never be legally driven again. For a category A write-off, the car was considered so severely damaged that no parts were salvageable, and you have no option but to have it scrapped.

Categories C, D, N, and S indicate the type of damage the vehicle has received. Write-offs within these categories may be able to be driven again if they’re repaired to a roadworthy condition.

Related: Cat B, Cat A, Cat N Or Cat S: What Does Your Car Write Off Mean?

As long as the correct procedures have been followed, it’s perfectly possible for a car that was written off at some point to be road legal again.

But these types of vehicles are always “buyer beware” – Your insurance company may charge you more for a car that has been written off, and you can be fined if you fail to disclose an accident you know about.

What can I find out about a car’s condition if there is no visible damage?

It’s not always clear if the damage you can see has been caused by an accident or simply the result of normal wear and tear. Even with the best intentions, someone selling a car they weren’t the original owner of might not knows its entire history themselves.

You can find out a lot about a vehicle’s history that it’s just not possible to see in a cursory inspection by running a Free Car Check.

As well as telling you if there have been any accidents and confirming that the vehicle has a good service history, our checks will let you know:

Even if one check comes back with a different result than something the seller has told you should ring alarm bells. And a price that sounds too good to be true can be just that when you take into account hidden repair costs or insurance hikes because of past accidents.

Will it affect my insurance if the car was damaged by a previous owner?

Previous damage doesn’t necessarily make the car worthless if it’s been adequately repaired and recorded by the owner. But insurance companies won’t payout for any issues that happened before you started the policy.

You’re required to tell your insurance company about any problems you know about with the car and about any accidents you are aware have happened.

Insurers will run their own checks when you apply to insure a car, so getting a full report before you buy can avoid any nasty surprises… And you will have any issues that could affect your insurance premiums highlighted.

What does the seller have to tell me about previous accidents?

The laws on what a seller needs to tell you about a used car aren’t very clear, but you’re more protected if you buy from a registered dealer vs a private individual.

Both dealers and private individuals should tell you about any damage they are aware of, and there are certain checks that dealerships must run before selling a car as part of their due diligence.

In court, a private individual who did not own the car when an accident happened could argue that they weren’t aware of it and didn’t know enough about cars to notice the signs themselves. A dealership is unlikely to be able to benefit from this defence.

How do you check if a car has been in an accident?

A full vehicle check will tell you about any reported accidents or insurance write-offs and fill you in on the MOT history.

While we can’t tell you about accidents that weren’t reported to an insurance company, anything that caused significant damage or required alteration to the car’s body should appear in the service history or be explained by an insurance claim.

If you spot any of the signs of an accident mentioned above, but the seller is pleading ignorance (and you can’t find any evidence of the repairs you see), you should walk away before putting your money on the line.

How do I check a car’s full history?

You can find the complete history of any vehicle by entering the registration number at freecarcheckr.co.uk and choosing the premium report.

In this report, we’ll tell you if the car has ever been stolen, scrapped, written off, or cloned. Plus helpful information like valuations that you can compare to the asking price.

When one in four of our checks finds something a buyer needs to know about, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the risk of not knowing!

Can I find out if a vehicle is ex taxi?

With our service, you can quickly determine if a vehicle you own or are thinking about buying has ever been used as a taxi.

We’ve worked with councils nationally to build a comprehensive list of vehicles that have been used as commercial taxis, and we include a free ex-taxi check with our car history check service.

It’s worth knowing if your car has ever been used as a taxi since this often leads to extra wear and tear on the vehicle and can lead to higher insurance premiums as a result.

More miles on the clock than can be explained is often a sign it’s been used for commercial purposes, and you can avoid an unpleasant surprise from your insurance company with our full check of all available taxi records.