Is there a way to confirm if a used rental car has been in a crash?

Is there a way to confirm if a used rental car has been in a crash?

Rob is in the process of buying one



Q. You were quoted in a local paper saying that rental companies lobbied successfully to be exempt from reporting collisions, with the corresponding conclusion that used rental vehicles may show a clean vehicle history report, even if the vehicle in question was in an accident. I am considering purchasing a used daily rental. Is a third party report like CarProof reliable? Is there another way to confirm if a used rental has been in a crash?

— Rob F.

A. Car dealers know that daily rental companies don’t report collision damage. Daily rental companies self-insure for collision damage and third parties like CarProof do not collect their collision data.

A vehicle appraiser, auto body shop or an experienced car dealer can identify most body repairs visually fairly easily; nowadays many of them use a gauge to measure the paint finish on every panel against the factory finish to enhance the accuracy of their inspections. However, finding a person who will actually perform an inspection for you prior to a purchase is very difficult.

Most body shops, especially those attached to car dealerships, won’t get involved, even if an inspection takes just a few minutes. General repair shops of the type you could use to inspect the mechanical condition of a vehicle prior to its sale do not have the training to spot cosmetic damage, although some of them are able to spot major structural repairs. Two mobile used vehicle inspectors operating in Western Canada checked out by the APA’s secret shoppers did not appear to have the required skills or tool necessary to perform a complete body inspection even though they claimed to do it. In Greater Toronto and Montreal, the APA can direct you to an auto dealer or inspector who will be able to inspect for prior collision damage on your behalf (there may be a charge for the service).

If you are shopping for a used vehicle at a retail sales centre operated by a daily rental company, ask the salesperson to check their file on the vehicle for reports of collision repairs and any other service it may have received. If you’re shopping at a new or used car dealership for a used daily rental, and the seller pulls out a CarProof or similar vehicle history report to demonstrate the vehicle is collision-free, there’s a good chance the vehicle was hit and repaired.

If you’re buying a used daily rental that is represented as accident-free, make sure the seller writes into to the sales agreement “All panels original” or “All paint original,” as opposed to “clean CarProof,” or not recording anything. Repainted bumpers or cosmetic repairs to two or three body panels are no reason to pass on a vehicle, but more extensive damage could be material and would reduce the vehicle’s market value if declared. In the absence of reliable information from a third party, you’ll want the assurance of an “all-clean” declaration or a thorough description of the repaired areas written into the sales agreement by the seller.

George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association