If you are buying a car from an auction or bidding on salvage cars online, chances are that you may come across a report titled “DAMAGE” for a vehicle that you have your eyes on.
This report basically consists of a summary of all the issues and damages that have been found in the vehicle after it has gone through an assessment process.
Some of the damage may be visible and some might not be. For example, if a vehicle has undergone an accident, you might see some dents and bumps on the body of the car. However, the more serious mechanical issues may not be easily noticeable and may even not be easy to repair.
By bidding on used and salvaged cars through a reputable online auction, you might be doing yourself a favor. This is because you will get the damage report that will let you know the condition of the vehicle accurately. On the other hand, if you buy a vehicle directly from an owner, they might not share details of the damages with you.
As such, online auctions can help you save thousands of dollars by helping you make an informed decision and preventing you from buying a lemon.
However, keep in mind that the damage report consists of several codes that you need to interpret to understand the condition of the car.
Understanding Damage Codes
Used and salvage car damage codes are made up of two capitalized alphabets. These are typically abbreviations of the kind of damage found on vehicles.
These codes are typically used only for reference, so it is always a smart idea to check the vehicle yourself or hire a certified mechanic to do the checking for you so that you can get a full picture of the car. Also, keep in mind that the damage code added to the damage report may not be an exhaustive list; a car may have just one code, but it is possible it may not be in great condition in other aspects as well. On the other hand, a car may have five or six damage codes but it might still be easy to repair.
The Most Commonly Used Damage Codes
1. FR — Front End Damage
The “FR” code is used to indicate front-end damage to the car due to an accident or collision with an object.
This damage has a large range and can be anything from small dents and scratches to major destruction of the front framework. It could be a broken or dented bumper or a crumpled hood, which does not impact the engine.
2. HL — Hail Damage
The “HL” code indicates damage to the vehicle’s body due to hailstones. The extent of the damage varies as well and can be anything from dings and dents on the roof of the car, a shattered windshield, or even water damage to the interior of the car.
If the damage is only to the body or glass of the car, it can be easily repaired by a mechanic. If, however, the damage is to the interior, it can be more severe.
3. MC — Mechanical Damage
Mechanical damage refers to the damage sustained by the car’s mechanical components, like the engine, brakes, transmission, etc. If there is damage to any of the car’s major components, it may experience various issues like not starting, the transmission not engaging, the engine making a loud noise, or the car heating up very quickly.
Again, mechanical damage can also be severe or easily repairable. Make sure you calculate all the risks before buying a vehicle with mechanical damage.
If your vehicle has leaks and you want to export it, keep in mind that the shipping line will reject them.
4. MN — Minor Dents/ Scratches
These refer to the cosmetic damages on the car and can be found in any part of the vehicle. This kind of damage is no bigger than 30 mm. The good thing about these damages is that they do not have a significant impact on the vehicle’s performance and can be very easily repaired or painted.
5. NW — Normal Wear
A vehicle that has undergone normal wear may not have significant issues. It is a natural process of deterioration when a car is in use.
A car that only has a “NW” code and you do not find any other issues with it, is one of the best types of vehicles to purchase because it does not require major repairs and can give you reliable use for several years.
6. RR — Rear-End Damage
This indicates the damage that has occurred at the back end of the vehicle, including the rear panels and the trunk of the car.
If the car has suffered a collision at the rear end, it can jolt the exhaust system forward and affect the transmission and trunk area. Rear-end damage is typically not as severe as front-end damage and can be repaired easily by a mechanic.
7. SD — Side Damage
The “SD” code refers to the collision to the side of the vehicle, which can leave bumps, dents, or crumpled door panels. The damage can also extend to the wheels and tires of the car.
If the car has a “SD” code, make sure you check its front doors to see if they are affected. If the doors are affected, you should consider getting another vehicle because fixing it may require you to go over budget.
8. UN — Undercarriage Damage
When inspecting damage, one of the most overlooked areas of the car is the undercarriage. This damage occurs to the underside of the vehicle caused by jutting rocks, potholes, muds, debris, and even salt on the road.
Undercarriage damage not just affects the body of the car, but also the ancillary fittings like the fuel tank, exhaust, and the suspension. It is important that you get this damage fixed when buying a car with a “UN” code.
9. VN — Vandalism
If a vehicle has become the target of vandalism, it will get a “VN” code. The vandalism could be anything, from paint on the car’s body, the broken glass, to missing door handles, removed ignition wiring, and slashed tires.
A lot of times, the damage is not severe and you can easily get the broken or missing parts replaced. If you want to export the car, be careful not to buy one that has a broken windshield.
10. WA — Water/ Flood Damage
Water damage can affect the interior as well as the mechanical components of the car. Although vehicles that have been caught in floods or torrential rain can be fixed, if the water has leaked inside major mechanical parts, it can add a hefty sum to your budget.
Therefore, think very carefully if you want to buy such vehicles.
11. ST — Stripped
If you see a car with an “ST” code, it means that its parts have been removed. This could be done by the previous owner or the parts may have gone missing for unknown reasons.
If you are interested in buying such a car, take care that no major parts are missing and those that are missing can easily be replaced.
12. BN — Burn
If a vehicle has suffered significant fire damage, it will be given a “BN” code. There are different burn codes for damage that is limited to specific zones.
For example, if the engine has caught fire, the code will be “BE.” If the internals of the car has suffered burns, including the boot, it will be donated as “BI.”
Fire damage can also be mild or severe, particularly if it impacts the major units of your car.
Although online car auctions cannot guarantee you a vehicle in stellar condition, they can take a load off your shoulder if the cars come with a damage report with damage code.
Before buying a vehicle, it is recommended that you check the vehicle history report or to get a physical inspection of the van. You can also enlist the help of RideSafely.com to assist you.