While "caveat emptor,” Latin for “let the buyer beware,” is a guiding principle, particularly with sales between private individuals, "honesty is the best policy" should be the rule when selling a car that has been damaged in an accident. When communicating with a potential buyer about a car, it's critical to be up-front about the accident and the repairs that have either already been made, or that are still needed. Not only is this approach ethically required, it is also necessary to ensure the safety of anyone who may purchase the car.
Assess the extent of the damage to the car. Hire a reputable mechanic to perform a thorough inspection and to document all the issues in writing. Ask the mechanic to determine if the car can be repaired to the point of performing safely. If not, the car can only be sold as a salvage vehicle. If repairs are made, direct the mechanic to provide written information on each repair and take before and after photos. If the car cannot be repaired, contact your local salvage yard and sell the car for scrap.
Determine the potential resale price of the repaired car, using the values provided in the Kelly Blue Book directory, which can be found online or at your local library. Utilize the features and condition guidelines to determine the appropriate value based on the car’s current condition. For example, if repairs have been made and the car is fully restored, you can establish a price based on “good” or possibly “very good” pricing. If the repaired car still has some defects, price the car close to the value given for “fair” condition
Advertise the car at the determined price and inform any potential buyer at first contact that the car has been in an accident. If the individual is still interested, provide accident reports, insurance inspection reports, and paid invoices that spell out the damage sustained and the repairs made. Provide an up-to-date vehicle history report, or give the buyer your car's VIN number so she can conduct her own research. Offer to allow the buyer to take the car to a repair shop or body shop for inspection. Provide the before and after pictures of the damage and the subsequent repairs.
Document that the car being sold has been in an accident when preparing a bill of sale. Sign the document and have the buyer sign, as well.
- Check your state's consumer protection laws to see if there are specific procedures to follow or documentation required when selling an accident-damaged car or reporting the damage. Laws vary from state to state and may be different for private sellers and car dealers.
Fiona Todd has been a writer since 2001. With work appearing in a range of media outlets, including "The Seattle Times" and "Static Magazine," she enjoys sharing her expertise in real estate, pets, gardening and travel. Todd holds an associate degree in communications from the University of Phoenix, and a real estate brokers license in Washington State.