Incredibly, many people never even think about this. When you go to buy a car, new or used, do you bother to ask if it’s ever been damaged? You might be surprised by the answers you get to this question. Even more surprising are the government requirements for vehicle damage disclosure. Let’s find out more.

Get a professional pre-purchase vehicle inspection report sent to your inbox in days. Contact CARCHEX for details.

Twenty-Five Percent Or More

Believe it or not, in the State of North Carolina, used car sellers only have to disclose past vehicle damage if it’s over 25 percent of the car’s fair market value. That’s a ton of hidden damage. This also means that if the car had damage equivalent to 24 percent of its value, the dealer doesn’t have to say a word until you ask.

Even for new cars, damage of less than 5 percent does not require reporting unless you ask. In Oklahoma, the amount is 3 percent or $500, whichever is greater. Each state sets its own regulations about motor vehicle damage disclosure. So it pays to inquire specifically about prior damage when buying any car.

Could They Be Lying?

Sadly, there are some unscrupulous dealers out there who will deny that the car for sale has been damaged. What’s your best defense against this? One approach is to get a vehicle history report, like those available from CARFAX. Still, even these reports can be incomplete, especially if the repairs were done at a shop that fails to report their work.

Look For Yourself

When you look at a car, even a new one, there may be telltale signs of whether or not it’s been wrecked. Just looking at the door and side panel lines in good light might reveal irregularities where body work was done.

In reality, there’s a whole list of items you should look for to detect prior vehicle damage. But many types of damage, like flood damage, can be easy to miss if you don’t know where to check.

Hire A Professional

Unless you have a trained eye, you may miss signs of past vehicle damage. A professional vehicle inspector, on the other hand, knows exactly what to look for. Plus, they know how to detect subtle signs that the car has had issues in the past. Finally, a professional takes the emotion out of the game. They can provide an unrushed, objective evaluation of the automobile.


The next time you’re considering purchasing  a car, whether used or new, ask about damage history. Then take a close look yourself, or hire a professional vehicle inspector.

Get a 155-point detailed pre-purchase car inspection on any vehicle. Contact CARCHEX for details.