One of the most important safety features of your car is the one you can’t see – the car’s structure*. A car’s structure is the foundation on which the entire car is built; therefore your safety depends on it. Vehicles used to have a body-on-frame construction, which were built for durability; today most vehicles are built on an integrated unibody structure that is built for safety, but is not the most durable. This can be an issue because if a vehicle has been in a moderate to severe accident, its structure could be severely compromised.
What is Structural Damage?
Structural damage is described as damage to any part of the main structure, or any component that is designed to provide structural integrity. Additional parts that are bolted on are not considered part of the vehicle’s structure. If any part of the car’s structural component is damaged, the structure is considered “damaged” and must be repaired to ensure safety.
How Does Structural Damage Happen?
Structural damage happens when the car is impacted at one of the pivotal sections of its structure, and is bent, shifted, or otherwise damaged. Even though the car may appear to not have suffered much damage, the unseen damage can be more severe.
What Does Structural Damage Mean for My Vehicle’s Safety and Value?
Despite popular belief, structural damage does not necessarily result in a “totaled” vehicle, though it is not uncommon. But no matter how severe the structural damage, the vehicle’s value may drop significantly. If the damage is not too significant or too costly the structure can often be repaired. However, an improperly repaired structure can result in more problems and repairs in the future as parts may wear unevenly.
Can I Buy a Vehicle with Repaired Structural Damage?
If you’re shopping for a used car, you want to make sure that the vehicle’s structure is sound. Vehicles with previous structural damage that are not properly repaired, in addition to causing other mechanical issues, often do not hold up as well in a subsequent accident. Be diligent about researching any used vehicle before buying. Make sure you get a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to check for any reported structural damage and have any used car inspected by a mechanic or body shop to verify the structural integrity of the vehicle.
*Structure refers to vehicles that have a frame, unibody or unibody-on-frame construction. Your mechanic can tell you which one pertains to your vehicle.