Spotting a 'cut and shut' car

Beware of damaged cars

One of the more common scams that the used car market has become notorious for is the so-called 'cut and shut' car, which is something that any buyer of a pre-used car should be aware of and needs to be careful to avoid. In simple terms, 'cut and shut' describes the practice of combining two cars that have been involved in an accident of some sort. It involves an undamaged front portion of a car being combined with the undamaged rear portion of a different car. This may come about when cars that have been through front end or rear end accidents are not properly taken off the road and are instead used to produce one superficially, at least, undamaged car. The practice is illegal and brings with it a number of hazards to buyers. However, there are several checks that can be carried out in order to see through the deception and identify such cars.


The paperwork of a 'cut and shut' car may not show obvious clues, unless the car had been listed as a write-off after an accident. This is unlikely, as at least half of each car involved in the 'cut and shut' has probably been undamaged. However, irregularities in the financing history of the car may be an initial indicator of trouble. In addition, any breaks or gaps in the maintenance or MOT history of the vehicle may require further explanation to reassure you that there is nothing underhand involved.

Car Bodywork

Matching up sections from two different cars is unlikely to be entirely invisible, so any panels that stand out from the general surface or that appear to be a slightly different colour may be indicative of deeper problems. Similarly, signs of an imperfect re-spray, such as paint on the door handles or on the seals of windows, may also provide reasons for suspicion.

The actual join between the two sections of bodywork may also be visible. As this is typically above the rear windscreen, this is a good place to start an inspection of the body structure. Interior details, such as differences in front and rear upholstery may also be a give-away.

To make a thorough examination possible, it is necessary to have good light and to be out of the rain. If a seller is unwilling or unable to provide good conditions for a vehicle check, then the potential purchaser is probably best advised to walk away from the deal altogether.