Is my car worth less after an accident?

car damage after an accident

Nobody wants to be in a car accident, but an accidental bump or scrape can continue to haunt you long after you’ve patched your vehicle back up. When you sell your car, you’ll be asked to detail any accidents it’s ever been in. The good news is that minor bumps and scratches won’t impact your car’s valuation much, if at all. The dealers who might buy your car know that used cars are rarely flawless, so a scratch here or there is perfectly fine. 

What counts as an accident?

In terms of car value and dealer expectation, there are different definitions of what an accident is, or at least, an accident that is particularly noteworthy.

Type of accidentImpact on value
Scratches and scrapes/small dents Low
Minor collisions (e.g. repairable with panel replacement)Low/moderate
Serious collisionsHigh

Another good way to gauge the impact an accident has on your car is the look at insurance category bands. When you tell your insurance company that your car has been involved in an incident, they will assess the damage and place your car into a category. Insurance categories use a letter that defines the sort of damage sustained and the future of the car.

Insurance categoryMeaning
Category ACar is irredeemable, suitable only for scrap. Category A cars cannot even be broken down into parts and resold.
Category BCar is irredeemable as a vehicle but may be broken down for parts and have some components resold. These parts are permitted to be used in road-going cars.
Category SStructural damage has been done to the car. The car will need to be professionally repaired, but once fixed, it can be driven on the roads again. 
Note: Category S was previously known as Category C
Category NDamage is not structural, but this does not necessarily mean that the car remains roadworthy. Damage to the brakes or steering would fall into Category N but still make the car unsafe to drive. 
Note: Category N was previously known as Category D
car worth less after crash
Your car could be worth less after a serious crash.

How much less is a car worth after an accident? 

Obviously, in the case of Category A and B cars, the vehicle will be worth only what you can get when you scrap your car, or for its parts. Category S and N cars still have hope of selling to a dealer or private buyer, but they will be worth less than a car that has never been involved in an accident. 

There’s no one answer to precisely how much less your car will be worth after an accident. This depends on several things including:

  • What your car was worth before the accident
  • The extent of the damage 
  • The quality of the repairs
  • The extent of the repairs 

Other things that impact car value, regardless of accidents, will also continue to apply. So, as well as the car depreciation that comes with accidents, you’ll also have to remember that age and milage are key factors in valuations. 

What is diminished value?

Diminished value refers to what your car was worth before and after an accident. This term is used when it comes to claiming insurance on a vehicle. The diminished value can be used in your insurance claim to help you cover the repairs needed to bring your car back to its original state. It’s worth noting that even if you completely repair your car, its accident history will still be requested and likely still impact value. 

damaged car worth less after accident

Will dealers buy a car that has been in an accident?

Motorway works with 3,000+ verified dealers who are experienced in selling a wide range of cars. So, being in an accident isn’t something that automatically means you won’t be able to sell your car. Of course, you should assume that you will make less on a car that has been in an accident versus one which hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great deal. Even if your car has been written off, we can connect you with our scrap partner (though your car will not be able to be offered to our dealer network). 

Selling with Motorway is easy, but there are some extra things to remember if you know your car has a history of accidents:

  • Motorway’s free and instant valuations are based on reg and milage, and the assumption that your car has never been in an accident
  • You must show any damage in your car profile
  • Dealers will inspect your car in person, if they find evidence of an accident that you did not disclose, your sale may fall through.

No matter who buys your car, you should have your documents in order, such as service history to show the repairs it has had. Always be honest about any accidents.

Selling your used car?

We have everything you need to know about car ownership and selling in our range of guides.