Buying a car with prior accident but clean title

We saw a car yesterday (14 terrain 60k). the price seemd right so checked it out at a small used car dealer. He said the car was in accident (rear ended) and has been issued clean title. Google the vin and shows couple of images with rear end damage to bumper. The bumper is gone but the frame looks okay. How good is it to buy this car? It runs good and does not feel any vibrations, etc. The dealer said you can take it to chevy dealer for inspection if you need to. Could there be any other damage to the car since it was totalled? Still wondering how did it get a clean title? How to make certain this car is okay? Any thoughts…


You’ll need to take it to a body shop for inspection to the frame along with your mechanic for a mechanical inspection…I personally wouldn’t even waste my time with this car. Plenty of used cars available that don’t have accident damage


I agree, there are too many good used cars out there to even consider this one. If it was totaled by insurance, there definitely more damage than meets the eye.

I dunno. Cars get in accidents and are repaired all the time. That’s what body shops do. As long as its a quality job I really don’t see a problem. My concern would be with the quality of the paint, the fit of the hatch to make sure it was done right. But sure, have a shop look at it to see if there is any other damage. There is only a title issue if the car has been totaled out. A little bumper and quarter panel damage wouldn’t do that. A clean title doesn’t mean there has never been any body repair.


The only way a salvage title gets issued is if the car’s repair value exceeds about 80% of its overall value and the insurance company labels it “totaled.” There are plenty of properly repaired vehicles for sale - and if they are discounted, better for you.

Exactly WHEN did the accident happen in the life of the vehicle? A week before it was traded? Beware THAT one! 2 years before? Plenty of time for problems to surface IF there were any. If it was 2 years ago, I wouldn’t worry about it - but get it checked by a mechanic, like we’d suggest of ANY car you might buy used!

Thanks for the feedback. I was able to spot the autocheck report on a website for this vehicle and it seems the accident happened in march. The site mentioned it started and was driveable when it came to them. Not sure how much the dealer put for fixing it and will show me the paperwork. As for price it is similar to a 100k on a vehicle (this has 60k). Can we negotiate a lower price?

the rear corner is not removable. either it was cut out and replaced or some magic happened. watch a few russian body shop videos on similar repairs. i think you can look inside the panel area from the side storage areas behind the plastic trim panels. would be interesting too see what the sheet metal looks like

It seems odd to me that the dealer would not simply fix this at his lower cost (being in the industry) and then sell it with the repairs made. Seems like a red flag to me.

If it was totaled, it would have been issued a salvage title. If it now has a clean title, that means someone in the chain engaged in a practice called title laundering, in which you “sell” the car to someone in a state that does not transfer the salvage notation to their title, and then they either “sell” it back to you or they sell it themselves. Their title doesn’t say salvage, and so it transfers as a “clean” title even though the vehicle was totaled.

This vehicle is of Unibody design, and it does not have a frame.

Look into purchasing an NMVTIS report. I will show if an insurance company ever filled a total loss claim on it. There are circumstances where the car does not meet the states requirement to be salvaged, but still had enough damage for the insurance company to decide not to repair it. Here is a link to a goverment site for the report. Carfax and Autocheck do not display this information.

The fact that the damage occurred at the rear is a good sign. If the repair has been done properly it may well be worth considering. The key factors: Your own mechanic’s inspection report, and the amount of the discount compared to a similar car without an accident issue. Before writing any checks, make sure your insurance company will agree to cover it.

I question if this is a legitimate dealer, a vehicle like this normally would only be sold by an used car lot.


Confirmed in the first line of the original post.

Depending on how long ago this car was “totalled” and at the moment has a clean title.
I’m thinking the insurance paperwork may not have caught with the state when the title was issued.

If you buy this and the insurance companies paperwork has caught up to the state, you could easily be getting a rebuilt or salvage title from the issuing state for this vehicle.

call your insurance company and tell them you are thinking about purchasing a car and ask if they can run the VIN number for you to check for clear and clean title.

I would avoid any Equinox/Terrain especially if it has the 2.4 4 cyl DI engine. The 2010-2013 2.4 engines had an issue with high oil consumption due to premature wear of the oil control rings.

I have a 2013 Equinox since new. At 42k miles the engine was using a quart of oil every 1500 miles. The pistons, rings, and a stretched timing chain were replaced under warranty. Before the rebuild, oil changes were every 4-5k, Dexos oil was used, and I never let the oil level get low. It has 70k miles and so far it hasn’t had any further issues. I would not buy one of these vehicle used.

Ed B.