Rear ended car purchase

  • 135,000 MILES
What should be checked when looking to buy a car that was rear ended and totaled by insurance? It is a 98 Nissan Altima with 135k miles and asking $2900 by a recommended auto mechanic?
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Monday, August 22nd, 2011 AT 5:27 PM

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I assume that price means the car has been repaired already. Check the seams in the trunk. There will be seam sealer over them, typically about an inch-wide layer of a hardened putty-like material. If that band is real wide, they left gaps and didn't bother to fit the panels properly that were replaced or straightened. The body is actually a structural part of the car and you want it to be able to withstand / absorb the impact of another crash, if that happens.

Look at the gaps between the trunk lid and body, and the doors and body. They should be equal on all sides, not excessive, and not too tight. The doors and trunk should open and close normally. There's always going to be some minor imperfections, but the doors shouldn't rub and the latches shouldn't stick or drag on the strikers.

Look from the inside around any light housings for gaps that could let rain water in. Look for dust or paint over-spray on the rubber weather seals for the trunk and doors. That would indicate they aren't making contact and will let road dust and water into the car. Gaps can be caused by the body not being shaped properly to match the door profile or it could be as simple as the weatherstrip developed a small deformed area from bring wrapped up in the shipping package. There are some simple tricks to help a weatherstrip seal better.

Look at the front edge of the doors and trunk. If they stick out compared to the panel in front of them, they'll catch air and make wind noise, and they'll catch rocks thrown up by the tires. That will lead to pitted paint and rust. Those can be adjusted in, but if that makes a door close real hard, some people just adjust them out for a better feel, without regard to future problems.
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Monday, August 22nd, 2011 AT 9:34 PM

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