Considering buying a car that was keyed and repainted

I am considering buying a car that was keyed and then must have been “totaled” by the insurance company. A dealer bought it and repainted it.

The car in question is a 2004 Chevy Impala with a V6 3.8 liter engine. It has 153,000 miles on it and they are asking 4499 obo.

Kelly blue book puts the car at 3732 in excellent condition.

Is this car worth a lot less because of the keying damage and the fact that it was repainted?

Interested in any thoughts!


Maybe being keyed is a storyline that is not true and the car was repaired after a major collision.
The car should be thoroughly inspected before any purchase no matter what.

My opinion is that the car is overpriced. Excellent condition is something that very, very few vehicles meet and a 153k miles, 9 year old Impala that has had a repaint is not one that meets that criteria. It would more than likely be fair, good, or somewhere between the two.

What is the best way to have a car thoroughly inspected? I live about an hour from where this car is located.

I have always steered away from totaled cars.

If the car was worth less than value of the paint job, then they could have totaled it, but chances are this is not the case, since the dealer is able to make money on it.

If you browse craigslist, you will see that any car with a salvage title has a minor accident as the cause, or theft recovery or some other bogus story.

153,000 on a 9 year old impala? Check the blue book, there is no way that car is worth that much.

I’m not “buying” the story. There is absolutely no way the car was totalled due to being keyed. If it was totalled, it was totalled due to an accident. You’re being lied to. Run from this salesperson. Run fast and far.

I agree, sounds bogus to me. For such a common car there should be a better one to look at. Have you tried, etc, put in your zip, max price, and model, see what pops up.

You could ask to see the paperwork from the body shop that did the work. This could verify whether or not the key story is true but my feeling is that it’s bogus.
Even if true, I don’t see that car being worth the asking price anyway.

If they can’t or won’t produce the body shop paper then you might ask them where they got the key story from… :slight_smile:

Our insurance salesman suggested looking up the VIN number. This should explain what happened to the car to total it.

Also, it was suggested to check with the bank I might get a loan through to see what they would be willing to pay for this car.

Does this sound like a safe option if I am still interested?

Also, the work was done on this car by the husband and son of the woman who is selling it so there would be no paperwork.

Any other thoughts?

$4500 seems a little steep even if it wasn’t keyed and repainted. Maybe look around a bit, see if there are other cars available that might suit you needs and price better. Have you check Consumer Reports for their reliability ratings on this car as a used car? Might be worth your time for a trip to the local library.

Knowing the paint work is an inside job just makes it even more suspect in my opinion and I’m having a very hard time getting past a keyed paint job as leading to a total declaration.

Unless you’re in tight with a banker getting a 9 year old, high miles Impala financed might be a real stretch. Around here the age limit on used car bank financing is 7 years.

You can certainly check with the bank on this but do not be upset or surprised if they refuse to finance it.

I’m in agreement with GeorgeSanJose; look around and I think that with patience and some footwork you can do much better.

I definitely would not go with the 4500! The price for this car in “good” condition, according to kbb is around 3100.

Am I wrong that getting the VIN number would tell us what has happened to the car in the case of it being “totaled”?

I wonder if a car with a salvage or rebuilt vehicle title has any loan value.

The “keyed paint” is a con. People buy totaled cars at auctions and repair then in their back yards. Look closely at body panel alignment, this will indicate where the collision damage was.

I see this on craigs list all the time, “the vehicle was stolen, just needed a new ignition lock”. That would total a car?

My neighbor bought a rebuilt car five years ago for his daughter. He showed it to me when he bought it (because it needed work), “only $5000”. It looked like a bad joke, every body panel was crooked, I couldn’t tell where the inpact had occured, maybe it was a roll over. I could see inside the trunk when it was closed.

If you get the VIN number your insurance person should be able to determine very quickly if that car has been declared a total by some insurance company and written off.
On the other hand, sometimes cars become a total with no record in any data base. It all depends on the situation with the owner and the people repairing it. This could be especially true if someone was carrying liability coverage only and the car was simply chalked off.

If you’re serious about this car then I would advise that it be thoroughly checked over for paint overspray in places that should not be affected by a key, wrinkled floor pan, cracked paint on the floor pan, strut towers, and subframes, etc, all of which could mean serious damage.
A mechanical inspection is a different deal altogether and I would have no problem wagering that a number of mechanical faults could be found with a thorough inspection.

Regarding Nevada’s comment about people fixing up cars for resale, there’s a huge auto pool not too far from me. My rough guess is that there’s about 8k cars there. Most are insurance jobs minor or major, fire jobs, theft recoveries, towed and never picked up, etc, etc. A few years ago this place was open to licensed car dealers only but has since opened to the general public.
Think about how many cars that are towed out of this place are repaired (properly or improperly would be the unknown) and placed for resale both by dealers and members of the general public.

Someone is definitely trying to make a lot of money off of you. The replies you’re getting telling you to walk/run away from this “deal” are from people with years of experience in this area.

Too many people in your shoes get taken all the time. I did when I was 19, and it’s no fun when you have to dig yourself out of it.

The choice is yours.

A nine year old Impala with 153,000 miles and a salvage title is not worth even $3000. Even if the repainting story is true this would be a terrible deal unless the price was under $3000. If the car was totaled by insurance and now has a salvage title then it is almost guaranteed that it was in a collision. Without proof of what was repaired and a complete inspection (and thumbs up) by a mechanic you trust I would say you should move on.

Quoting @Nevada_545 “I see this on craigs list all the time, “the vehicle was stolen, just needed a new ignition lock”. That would total a car?”

Well, yes it does. I bought a Toyota Corolla several years ago that was in that exact situation. I chisled the old lock out myself. What happens around here when a car is stolen is that the insurance company will pay off once the car is gone for a week. Then, some time later, the car is found. By that time the former owner has moved on and bought another car. They don’t want it or need it back. The insurance company is required by law to get a salvage title, whether or not there was any physical damage to the car.

I’ve also had a car stolen that was handled the same way. The theif broke in and stole the keys too, so there was no need to replace the switch, but it was still a “totalled” car.

It is sometimes interesting to see what little damage it takes for an insurance company to “total” a car. If the car is more than seven years old, it doesn’t take much. One I’m driving now needed a white door which cost $100 at a salvage yard. It took about half an hour to fix.

As to the OP’s original question, the car may well have been keyed and repainted, although it does sound suspicious. Unfortunately with those miles and a rebuilt salvage title, it’s certainly not worth their asking price. If you really like the car AFTER a thorough inspection by a disinterested party, offer them about $2500 or move on. There are better cars out there, even at $2500.

Salvage title typically goes with about a 50% discount off the $3100, or $1550.

Walk away. There are plenty of older 4 door sedans out there, this one is nothing special.

The seller got a substantial insurance check for a “totalled” car. Then she had it repainted by her son and husband, not a pro body shop. This paint job is very suspect, might look OK in a picture but likely far from a good job. And the selling price it high, and it comes with a title that shows it as a totalled car which kills much of the resale value. This deal has “RUN away” written all over it.

Unless there’s something very, very special about this particular vehicle, doesn;t walking away make the best sense of all? There are, after all, other vehicles in the market.