Generally people want a safe and reliable car. A salvaged car falls short on both accounts. But what is a salvaged car and should you buy one?
Cars are built to rigid specifications for safety reasons. There is a built-in integrity that is engineered so that the car can withstand accidents without collapsing. Although specific crumple zones are key safety measures, those areas have been carefully engineered so that the impact does not intrude into the passenger cabin. However, structural weakening from a previous accident is very different and extremely dangerous to the passengers in that car.
As an example of this I will use a soda can. An aluminum can is light but it can take a fair amount of your weight before collapsing due to the integrity of the design. If you were to place the smallest dent in the can it would only be able to withstand a fraction of your weight. Even if you try to bring the can back into its original shape it will never be the same.
The same applies to your car frame. Once it has been compromised, no amount of “straightening” will bring back the original integrity.The unsuspecting owner is driving a car that, if it were in an accident, even a relatively minor one, the car would never be able to withstand the stress loads that it was originally designed to handle and it would tragically collapse.
Add to that the airbags that most likely deployed in a previous accident.You are trusting someone took the time to properly restuff, reprogram and safely put those very expensive airbags back together, like it was originally designed. Just like the rest of the car it will never perform to factory specifications and the result is often catastrophic.
But how can you be positive that the car that you are interested in buying does not have previous repairs?
There are a few good places to start. A car with a salvaged title is a pretty good candidate for frame damage. A salvaged car is one that the insurance company declared a total loss. In other words the total repair cost from an accident would have exceeded the value of the car. In these cases the title would have to reflect this.
However, there will always be cars that somehow get through the process of frame repair without being branded a total loss. It happens more than you might think. Therefore it is important to know how to spot the evidence of this frame straightening procedure. It takes less than a minute and it is a straightforward part of the inspection process.