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Should You Buy a Damaged Car? Our Guide to Pros and Cons

Everything you need to know about buying damaged cars, including pros, cons, tips, and how to buy them at eCarsTrade.
 close up of a white car with minor scratch damage around one of the lights

If alarms start going off when you hear the phrase 'damaged used cars', we're here to challenge that thought. Because you might just be missing out on the deal of a lifetime. Allow us to explain!

Hundreds of thousands of people, private and professional alike, flock to buy used cars each year. And for a good reason - it is a sustainable, green, and budget-friendly option in today's economy. But what about the vehicles that have been in an accident or suffered minor cosmetic damages? For private people, the negatives usually outweigh the positives, but for car traders and automotive professionals like you (and us), things get a little more interesting. 

Car traders with a keen eye and years of experience know the many advantages of buying a damaged used car. Damages don't have to be an immediate 'no'. The key is understanding what you're buying and why you're buying it.

Our daily and weekly online auctions at eCarsTrade feature thousands of used cars, including accident-damaged cars.

This article explores everything you need to know about buying a used car with damage history. But what exactly are accident-damaged cars, and why should you even consider buying them? Let's start from the top. 


What is an accident-damaged car? 

An accident-damaged vehicles usually refer to those that were once involved in a collision of some sort, which will always leave a significant amount of damage.

You might also stumble across these types of cars under the name 'salvage cars'. In the majority of cases, accident-damaged cars are insurance write-offs. 

What does that mean? "Total loss” also known as a “write-off” is a term used in insurance and denotes a vehicle in which the estimated cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car. This can mean a car that has incurred substantial damage due to e.g. fire or a massive crash, which renders the vehicle in a condition beyond economically justified repair. It can sometimes mean a car that was stolen and later recovered but the interior and exterior have been salvaged for parts”, states autoDNA. In other words - a car is cheaper to replace than to repair. 

Now that we've established what exactly makes a car damaged, let's see how minor or major the damage can be.

Common types of damaged vehicles

Whether you're flipping a car for profit or buying for parts, the key is to evaluate if you can make money on this car or lose money. If you plan to resell for profit, it's vital to figure out how much you'll have to spend on repairs.

These two types of accidents will determine your spending and profit:


  1. Minor accidents

Not every accident is a serious one. Sometimes there might be a collision, but the cars get away with only a few scrapes or dents, which require basic repairs. Vehicles that have been involved in minor crashes will be popular among car traders who know how to carry out autobody repair. 

In some cases, damage can be repaired with the right products and some work. Polishing can often remove light scratches. Special products can revive paintwork. Cracked headlight casing? You can easily find a replacement for that online. Here at eCarsTrade, vehicles with minor exterior, interior or technical damage are also available in our standard auctions while those with significant damages will be available in our auctions of damaged used cars. Always make sure to check the listing description and photos thoroughly before purchasing!

All in all, a car with minor damage can be a great source material if you're flipping cars for profit and you know how or where to get it repaired.

 close up of a grey car with scratch damage around one of the lights and front bumper

  1. Major accidents - is buying a salvage car bad?

Major accidents include car crash damage, fire and flood damage, or any combination of the three. The bottom line is - these vehicles will require extensive repairs in order to be safe for driving again. For example, for insurance companies in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, or Germany, the repair cost usually outweighs the profit, so they sell them in their current condition. But for eCarsTrade clients, especially those who own repair shops, there is still room for profit. Automotive professionals also invest in majorly damaged cars for their parts.

Severe accident damage doesn't need to come in the form of a completely wrecked car. If the car's chassis gets damaged after hitting a bump in the road, the vehicle is also in huge trouble.

Fire and flood damage are similar in their effect. Cars that have suffered either will be challenging to repair but not impossible. Here at eCarsTrade, many of our customers repair fire or flood-damaged cars or sell them for parts. There's always an opportunity for profit! 

You can find a selection of our accident-damaged used cars on our daily and weekly auctions.


How to check damaged car?

The first step to assessing whether a damaged vehicle is a right fit for your needs and plans is to thoroughly check the description of the car you’re interested in. You should be able to find all your desired information just by doing that!

Here at eCarsTrade, we provide the entire service history, and any potential damages are indicated in the appraisal reports and photos.

If you want to be extra sure, you can always run the VIN number through one of the many available VIN decoder tools. We’ve written a whole blog post about it!

If you are considering purchasing a car via eCarsTrade, we display the VIN numbers in all our car listings and our detailed appraisal reports available for each listing. Just navigate to any of our cars (make sure you’re registered first!) and find the appraisal report under the “Documents” section of the listing.

By running the VIN number through a VIN decoder, you’ll get a full report of the car’s history, including if it’s been in an accident and what exactly happened to it.

close up of mechanic's hands working on the engine of car with a wrench

Is buying a damaged car a good idea?

Buying an accident-damaged car could still be full of opportunities if you know what you’re doing.

If you are a car trader or automotive professional looking into repairing and selling it for profit, make sure your calculations are spot on, and you’re confident you can do top-notch repairs. Bonus points if car-flipping is your entire business. That way, you can combine expertise with volume. If you can combine a low budget and quality when it comes to repairs, you can make some significant profits repairing damaged vehicles.

For a private buyer, things are a bit clearer. According to CarHistory, used cars that have been in an accident are on average 60% of the price of undamaged cars. If the repairs are thorough, that sounds like quite a solid deal. This also opens the doors to luxury cars you wouldn’t usually have access to, all at budget prices. After all, a lightly damaged Porsche is still a Porsche.

We turned to Filip Sevostianov, CEO of eCarsTrade, to get a glimpse of his vast knowledge of the used-car industry. “In the northern parts of the European Union, the repair costs are much higher than in certain southern and eastern EU countries_en because of higher labor costs. This creates a very attractive opportunity for traders and professionals in southern and eastern EU countries_en to import those cars, especially if they own their own bodyshop”, Filip concludes.


The biggest con of buying a damaged car is glaringly obvious. It’s the fact that it is damaged in the first place. Damages mean extra work, and if car-flipping or repairs are not the main focus of your business, buying a damaged car might bring you more headaches than anticipated, unless you’re absolutely confident in your decision. 

Take into account that damaged cars also take some time to repair, and there might be extra hidden damages that are not obvious unless you go deep into repairs. If the vehicle is seriously damaged, it might not be able to drive on its own anymore, so transport will need to be arranged for that vehicle, adding to the list of costs.

The market value of these cars can be significantly reduced after the damages occur if the damage is major or the repairs aren’t done well. However, if the vehicle wasn’t considerably damaged and the repairs were perfect, the value of this car should be on par with a vehicle that was never in an accident. That means that even if you can still successfully flip it for profit.


Where can you buy damaged vehicles?

Our daily and weekly online auctions at eCarsTrade feature thousands of used cars, including a selection of accident-damaged cars. Remember to read the description and look at the photos thoroughly. All damages are carefully documented in all our photos and detailed appraisal reports are available for each vehicle.

Just navigate to any of our damaged cars, (make sure you’re registered first!) and find the appraisal report under the “Documents” section of the listing.

side view of a blue car with accident damage across the right side

Should you buy a damaged used car?

We can’t answer that one for you, but we hope to have given you enough information to make a decision! The answer will depend on many things - your line of business, your business model, your repairing expertise, type of vehicle, level of damage, whether you’re using the car for parts or flipping for profit, your country of residence…the list goes on.

In any case, you will have to be familiar with damaged cars to some degree and know what you’re doing. But if you’re just starting out or experimenting, that’s also great! Most accident damage is repairable. If you can properly repair the damage, a vehicle that’s been in an accident can quickly turn into a profit opportunity. 


eCarsTrade offers online car auctions of ex-lease vehicles from Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany with a complete maintenance history. We guarantee the quality of our vehicles, and a fast, simple and transparent purchasing process with fixed commission costs. We work with both European and international used car dealers and traders. Our dedicated managers are always here to help you with any questions!

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