Buying previously written off cars.

Discussion in 'Cars in General' started by Aphelion, Oct 13, 2019.

  1. Aphelion

    Aphelion

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    Hi there, im looking for general knowledge from people who are more experienced than I am. Im looking at a fairly new mazda 2 that was previously written off. The dealership that holds it "specialises in previously written off vehicles". The particular model (mazda 2 2016 genki manual) is listed for quite cheap, they usually go for around 15-17,000 AUD but this one is listed for 11 grand, which seems like a warning sign to me. However, the car looks outwardly spotless, and the dealership says that it was written off due to minor front end damage, and the radiator support, front grille, lights and front bar have all been replaced. I honestly dont know how it works, but im obviously very dubious about it.

    The dealership also says the car is in perfect working condition and has 6 months registration.

    I wanted to know if there was any risks in purchasing a car like this, or if I am overthinking it. Hopefully someone here will know more about it than me. :)
     
  2. Northstar

    Northstar Premium

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    I'm not really a car guy, but the ones I know who are won't even touch a salvage title car unless it's just for messing around or parts. It seems like you can get a good deal though, but everyone I've talked to says it not worth the risk to buy one as a daily driver since there is an increased risk of it being a lemon.

    I know in the US some insurance companies will charge more to cover a salvage title car, so that's something to look into as well.
     
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  3. Famine

    Famine Administrator

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    Yeah, all of them.

    A car that's been damaged where you can see has almost certainly been damaged where you can't. They're designed to fold up and split in a crash to dissipate energy before it affects the occupants, and being stuffed into something hard enough to bend mounting points and structures will almost certainly have deformed the car's body elsewhere. That means that when it has the next crash, it'll not dissipate the energy as it was designed to do, leading to considerably more damage to the vehicle... and its occupants.

    Insurers know this, and a previously crashed and repaired car will be more expensive to insure, because the risk of injury, serious injury and death is much, much higher.

    Worse, this car was written off. That means that the cost of repairing the car from its collision was so high compared to the value of the car that the insurance company would not cover it - I don't know the process in Australia, but in the UK that threshold is around 75% of the vehicle's market value. That would mean that an insurance assessor looked at the damage of a car with a market value of A$15k (as you quote), came up with a figure above A$11.5k and marked it as "beyond economical repair" - a write-off.

    Does "minor front end damage, and the radiator support, front grille, lights and front bar" sound like enough to add up to A$11,500 of repairs? It sounds like £250 of parts (A$500?) and an hour of welding (at, what, A$100/hr labour rate?) to me. That's an alarm bell - it suggests that the assessor saw more than the garage has repaired...

    Paint and labour often adds up to a lot, so if the front bumper, bonnet and both wings got a good battering you might see the official insurance repair price creep up while the garage could just source replacement parts in the right colour. I'm not seeing where you could get five figures from just that though.
     
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  4. Rallywagon

    Rallywagon Premium

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    Buying a rebuilt salvaged vehicle isnt worth it. If you are mechanically incline, then you can get a wrecked car and fix it yourself for less. And if your not, you dont want to own a previously wrecked car as there will likely be lots of little things to fix down the road and those Bill's will add up if you dont know how to do the work or spot the issue causing the problem. Famine is also dead on about the body structure. Impact zones within a modern cars chassis is designed to crumple to dissipate energy away from the passenger cabin. The chances of a shop getting those pulled out properly is slim, and the metal will have fatigued. Further, most of those crumple zones are also tied in with things like the shock tower and mounts for the subframe, pulling suspension off enough that it will never properly align.

    That said 11.5 probably isnt that far off in price. The Mazda would likely be 3, 3.5k at auction. If, and I wouldn't settle for less, you are looking at between 2 and 5k depending on how much was damaged. Enough to need replacing the rad support and it's probably closer to 5. A few more hundred for labor installing. Paint should be around 1000, 1500 for quality paint and quality work. And of course the shop needs to turn a profit, which makes up the last 3-4k.
    Worth it? I dont think so. I'd buy it at auction, chop out the bent stuff. Weld in a tube frame and go from there. But I dont suggest that either if you're not a competent fabricator/welder. Which you will want to be to decide if buying that salvaged car is really worth if
     
  5. FPV MIC

    FPV MIC

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    As far as I know from previous experience there are two classifications here in South Australia, but I'm not sure if this is Australia wide. Repairable write off is basically what it says and is allowed to be registered and returned to the road. The second is write off which cannot be returned to the road.

    I wouldn't touch it from my past experience. My bike was sold as an repairable write off with a bent frame and twisted head stem. The new owner contacted me after he purchased what looked like was a great deal only for me to give him the bad news.

    The insurance company had already made several attempts at giving me back the bike at this stage. The frame was still bent, head stem still twisted, one fork was still bent and none of the rear end was in alignment. They gave up at this stage and paid me out.

    077.JPG

    Edit: I forgot to mention that the rear brake arm fell off when the guy was riding it home from the auction :scared:
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
  6. Aphelion

    Aphelion

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    Alrighty, thanks everyone for the help. I really apreciate it.

    It seems like it is indeed just a plain bad idea. Kind of a shame really, that cars can seemingly so easily just become borderline worthless after one crash. I think ill just have to save for another 6 months and buy a pristine one. :)
     
  7. Danoff

    Danoff Premium

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    Pristine and salvage are not your only options.

    Buying a salvage or "written off" vehicle is not necessarily a bad idea, but it's for the very knowledgeable. It helps to really know the car, what goes wrong with it, what caused it to get totaled, and be an expert in the kinds of repairs that the car needs and/or have the right friends in the right places who can help or teach you at a steep discount. For example, making a frame repair on a car is possible, but it requires a lot of understanding of the car and knowledge and friends to get the job done correctly. Another example would be knowing how to spot accidents or horrific damage and come to the conclusion that a car really was just totaled for hail damage. And then if you're willing to ride around in a car with hail damage, you can get a screaming deal.

    In short, it's a game for pros. People who can look at a car and spot a paint repair (and those people exist) even while 99% of the rest of us can't tell the difference (or you can buy a paint thickness tester).

    If you want to save money on a car, buy a used one that has some minor cosmetic issues (yellow headlights, door dings), and get them fixed up after you buy. You can pay a body shop something like $150 to buff out yellow headlamps and apply clear bra to the headlamp (to make the repair semi-permanent) and totally change the way a car looks. Likewise, you can get 5 or 6 door dings ironed out with PDR for a few hundred bucks, at least in the US. Many times these issues come with a much reduced sticker price by folks that don't realize how easy it is to address those issues. If you're doing that kind of thing, a body shop will often also touch up a scratch here or there at no charge.

    Any time you buy a used car (salvage or otherwise), I'd recommend taking it to the corresponding dealership (for example, a Nissan dealership for a Nissan used car). You can do this with private party purchases too. Pay the dealer about $200 to do what they call a pre-purchase inspection. They'll find just about everything wrong with it and let you know what you're getting into. You can even use that information to argue for a reduced sale price. "Hey, the PPI report says you have a leaking transmission selector seal and you need brakepads and radiator fluid. how about $500 off?"

    You have to be willing to leave that $200 and walk away if the PPI says don't buy. That's a hard thing to do, but it's important.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
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  8. FPV MIC

    FPV MIC

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    In Australia things are a little different when it comes to write offs.

    I did a bit of poking around after posting about my experience and I was correct, a written off vehicle cannot be re-registered and as it turns out that applies to every state/territory in Australia. Only cars/bikes classified as repairable write offs can be, but they have to go through a certification process to be allowed back on the road.

    https://www.carsguide.com.au/car-advice/why-you-should-check-the-written-off-vehicle-register-40029

    I agree with your other points about cars with minor cosmetic issues and pre-purchase inspections being good options.
     
  9. Danoff

    Danoff Premium

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    We have several reasons for salvage titles in the US. Hail, flood, vandalism, theft-recovery, and non-repairable. For non-repairable damage you have to get the car re-certified after the repair before you can get it back on the road. However, for hail, vandalism, and theft-recovery I think the car can go straight back on the road. I'm really not sure about flood damage. Full disclosure - I have a relative that drives a salvaged truck.

    It sounds similar to Australia. Do you know if Australia has those provisions for cars totaled with purely cosmetic damage (like hail)?

    Edit:

    I guess that's equivalent to a repairable write-off in your article.
     
  10. FPV MIC

    FPV MIC

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    Yes we do, but this is where it gets a bit muddied. Some are still classed as repairable write-offs (hail damage) and they don't need the certificate as long as it's cosmetic damage much like your rules. Others repairable write offs with cosmetic damage (vandalism) do need the certificate. Normal government stuff really, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, it depends on how they feel on the day :boggled:.

    A couple of excerpts from the Victorian rules regarding repairable write offs:

    Source:https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/reg...-off-vehicles/repairing-a-written-off-vehicle

    Edit regarding your edit: Yep
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
  11. Eunos_Cosmo

    Eunos_Cosmo

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    I've heard (not confirmed independently) that salvage-title vehicles can be difficult to insure in some circumstances.
     
  12. ROAD_DOGG33J

    ROAD_DOGG33J Premium

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    In the US, salvage laws also vary by state.
     
  13. Aphelion

    Aphelion

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    Thats a really good point. Only problem is the particular car im looking for tends to be in pretty pristine condition, with about 40 to 60 thousand kilometers on them, and they tend to be decently well looked after because its the high end model, meaning not too many young first time drivers are their first owners.

    However, I still have heaps of time to look.