How Much Does Frame Damage Devalue a Car?

So, the frame of your vehicle is damaged and it is no longer safe to drive; before investing in a used vehicle that is damaged you must be able to have your car inspected and the value assessed. As you may already know, a used car’s value depreciates by about 70% (and this is before frame damage).

If you are trying to assess the fair value of your vehicle while the frame is damaged, be sure to take it to a reliable body shop that will work with you and not against you. If professionals do not restore your vehicle it may never be safe to drive.

In this article, we hope that we can give you all of the information needed in order to have your assessment, as well as information that will help you in your consideration of buying a used vehicle with a damaged frame. This way you can be prepared, knowledgeable, and ready to roll.

In general, frame damage to your vehicle will reduce its value by 30% on average assuming a quality body shop made the repairs in the correct way. However, there is so much more to know. Keep reading and we will dive deep into frame damage and how it impacts the value of your vehicle.

Why does a damaged frame cause so much deprecation?

Frame damage is an issue that few potential car buyers are comfortable dealing with unless they have professional experience in auto mechanics and bodywork.

These frames need to be straightened and may need new body parts welded in with laser precision. If the frame is not straight, the drivetrain will not sit right and will burn up the axles from even the slightest misalignment.

Frame damage is not something that you can simply eye up and approximate. Auto body shops invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and talent to repair damaged vehicles.

In most cases, they rely on insurance to cover the repairs. Without this insurance coverage, the average driver will not dish out the cash themselves on mass-produced and replaceable vehicles.

There are a lot of variables that can determine how extensive the damage is and to what extent it will impact the value of the vehicle. It generally depends on the location of the damage and the severity. The velocity and location of the impact is a key factor. Let’s delve deeper into these factors below.

Crumple Zones

If your vehicle’s frame is damaged severely, the crumple zones likely absorbed most of the impact as they were designed to do. The crumple zones are a feature invented by Mercedes-Benz that is now incorporated into nearly every vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz discovered that deformation of the metal frame helped to absorb some of the explosive shock waves that are, otherwise, transferred to passengers during an impact.

These crumple zones are designed to crumple like a tin soda can when you step on it. The resulting damage requires extensive repairs with laser welding equipment and frame pulling tools.

The crumple zones are generally impacted when there is a front-end or rear-end collision. These are the areas where there is more of a buffer zone for the vehicle to crumple and absorb the impact before it reaches the occupants.

Crumple zones can be deformed by impacts that are as slow as 10 mph. In fact, many Mercedes-Benz owners are shocked when they learn that their vehicles are more expensive to fix than to write off as totaled after a low-speed collision.

While these fender-benders would normally be brushed off by a large pickup truck bumper without any damage, they can destroy the value of a German vehicle or any vehicle for that matter.

Crumple zone vehicles are very safe, however, because they also are equipped with rigid safety cells that protect the passengers from being crushed. The crumple zone essentially slows down the impact and makes it less jarring, reducing the chances of whiplash and converting some of the energy into compression.

Subtle Damage to the Frame

When a vehicle is involved in a serious impact, the damage is much more obvious. But there are many vehicles on the roads that have a twisted frame or a sagging frame that causes misalignment issues.

This will tear up axles and wear out tires and shocks prematurely. It can also affect the handling of the vehicle around corners. Because of this, your vehicle may feel unstable at higher speeds.

Subtle damage is something that many fear after a botched frame repair. If the work is not completed properly, the vehicle can still suffer from drivability and safety issues, your vehicle will not hold up well if it is involved in another accident; which, though this is the worst-case scenario, needs to be considered.

Rust Damage to the Frame

Rust damage is a common occurrence because trucks are often driven in harsh conditions where mud and road salt sticks to the undercarriage and corrodes it. A lot of domestic vehicles are already beginning to oxidize when they arrive at the dealerships. Rust is more prevalent in Snowbelt States and near the shorelines.

Rust damage to the frame may be even harder to resolve because no auto body shop can provide a warranty on a rust repair. This means that even the newly replaced parts can begin rusting soon after installation. Rust tends to seed itself in materials and spread out as cancerous cells do in the body.

Contamination and improper methods of repairing rust damage can make a huge difference in the quality and durability of the repair. Frames can literally fall apart in your hands when they are extensively rusted out.

It doesn’t take much prodding with a pocketknife or screwdriver to determine whether the structural integrity of the frame is compromised.

You will often find layers of thick scaling that flake off under pressure. If you put enough pressure on these rusted out metals, the entire frame will collapse. They are certainly a hazard if involved in an accident or put under stress.

Where Can You Sell a With a Damaged Frame?

An intermediate car broker is your best avenue for a quick sale on a vehicle with a damaged frame. A car broker may have the connections to sell your vehicle to someone who can properly assess the damage, restore it, and guarantee the quality of the repairs. There are companies that focus primarily on vehicle restoration rather than insurance claims who may be willing to take on a project.

However, due to the variables, you may have to accept low offers that are less than 30% of what your Kelly Blue Book value may be. If the damage is not severe, you are probably better off finding a reputable repair shop that will do the work.

However, don’t be surprised if the quotes are extremely high. Some auto body repair shops are simply too busy with stable insurance work, which bring in over half of the profits.

Finding an auto body shop to fix an older vehicle frame is a gamble. These shops typically have limited space and they cherry-pick the most lucrative projects. A smaller shop that is less accessible likely has fewer projects and less overhead. Smaller repair shops are usually the best deal for auto body repairs.

Should You Scrap the Vehicle for Parts?

You may have better luck scrapping a vehicle out for parts if the frame is severely rusted or damaged in an accident. Nevertheless, selling the engine, struts, brakes, rotors, interior pieces, exhaust, transmission, tires, and good body parts, piece by piece, is no easy project; you will find that the demand for newer parts is less than it may be for older parts because fewer drivers need replacements in late-model vehicles. However, you can try eBay for these kinds of sales.

If you have a specific type of vehicle that people may collect or hold onto, selling the parts can be a valuable option. Subaru’s, Volkswagens, Honda’s, and any type of special edition of sports car can retain long-term value.

These vehicles tend to have a cult following of tuners who like to rebuild them and keep them on the roads forever. While stock parts may not be what the average tuner is looking for, drivetrains are always in demand to modify and develop.

The longer that you hold onto the vehicle parts, the greater the potential for profit when the car is considered a classic. Putting these parts up for auction now or holding onto them can be a wise investment.

You can also find a rolling shell of the same model and install the parts to build a functional vehicle. Searching online auctions and model enthusiast forums are some good starting places.


Dealing with a vehicle after severe damage to the frame is never an easy task. You will find that the options are limited because vehicles are constantly improving their engineering and technology and have become disposable.

Very few car shops even fix vehicles anymore unless it is under warranty or insurance coverage. You should ensure that damage to the frame is covered under your insurance policy because it can cause steep devaluations.

However, given the options outlined above, do not fret because you are not lost in deep water! There are many ways to recoup your loss and even your vehicle.

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