Don't be fooled by a car's shiny paint jobs or flashy rims, which can easily disguise major problems hidden below. Make a thorough visual exterior inspection of the vehicle, checking all body panels to see if anything has been repainted. You should also check to see if any of the front end panels have been replaced or realigned.
One way to check for repainted panels is to compare the colors of adjoining panels. Also, look for signs of paint splatter or an uneven paint finish on panels, on adjoining moldings or lights, and on edges of doors when you open them. When a front-end panel has been replaced, the paint on the inside will be fresh and clean as opposed to the rest of the car.
Check for VIN serial numbers on the inside of their panels. A replacement panel will not have a number, or one matching the rest of the vehicle. Another way to see if the vehicle has been in a collision is to scan and compare at panel spacing. Both sides of the vehicle should have the same space between panels. Check body alignment by opening and closing the hood, trunk and doors, and see how easy the hood opens when pulling the release cable.