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Buying a used car in Singapore. Tell-tale signs it’s been in an accident

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You may have spotted the car you’ve always wanted in the classifieds but the lower than low sticker price sometimes make you wonder whether things are too good to be true. These are common signs that can mean the second-hand car you’re about to consider is a cover-up job.

Uneven steven
Nice from far, far from nice. This is true of some cars which look pristine at first but upon close visual inspection, can reveal some glaring inconsistencies on the painted bodywork, where some surfaces show smooth lines while others seem uneven when viewed in daylight. Walk around the car and to see if the colour on all the panels matches — if it doesn’t then you know some patch work has been done to the car.

Open and shut
Parts of the car that open and close should be tested. When the doors, boot and bonnet are closed they ought to be perfectly flush with other panels. If the alignment isn’t right, it could be a sign that the car has been involved in a smash. Similarly, the front and rear bumper should fit straight but if you notice it’s at a slight angle, chances are high that it’s had a shunt.

Feel the rubber
Look at the manufacturing date of the tyre fitted - if it’s used for more than a year, get them replaced. Give the tyres a good feel. If the tread seems uneven, it could be because of a misaligned wheel possibly caused by damage to the chassis.

Go down under
While you are down there it’d be a good idea to have a good look at the underbody and the wheel wells – if you see a fresh application of a rubberised undercoat it could be because of recent structural repairs and this was a quick way to cover that up.

Smelly cabby
While bad smells is an obvious sign, a cabin with too many air fresheners in the cabin should also sound the alarm bells – is the owner trying to cover up any damp smells caused by flood damage?

Screen it
Although a rare find, check the windshield for cracks – if there is even a tiny one, it could be a sign that the car has been in an accident. Even if it hasn’t, this should be replaced immediately — at the seller’s expense.

Lamp swap
Headlights turn hazy over time and get a yellowish tint. If one looks clear and the other doesn’t, chances are high that it’s been replaced. Also the headlights should be aligned properly, if they’re not then they’ve been replaced. Open the bonnet and inspect the front end for signs of damage.

Strange sounds
Car buying 101: Never buy a car without driving it. On the road, listen out for any strange sounds such as a cyclic squealing or other odd noises: this may indicate a small or huge mechanical damage is occurring. Hear any tapping, knocking or a metal to metal slap from the engine? Might be serious. Do the brakes grind? Are the electrical systems in the car OK? Get the dealer to have them sorted. But if the car requires way too much work, you might want to walk away and hit those classifieds again.

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