Certified Used Vehicle Programs Reject Cars with Accident Damage

Understanding Diminished Value and Certified Used Cars

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Certified Used Vehicle Programs Reject Cars with Accident Damage

Our network of contacts in the automotive business sometimes gives us access to interesting information. For example, the Toyota dealers’ requirements for the Toyota Certified Used Vehicle Program show how carefully these cars are inspected for accident damage. The evidence of a collision repair can be hard to conceal from a trained inspector. This is yet another reason that cars suffer from the stigma of Diminished Value.

Toyota Program Details

Vehicle Eligibility

Make – Toyota only
Model – All Toyota Models
Year – Current model year through and including six (6) year old models
Mileage – Less than 85,000 miles
Vehicle History
No frame/unibody or structural damage (see Mechanical Standards & Process Notes)
No excessive repaired or unrepaired body damage (any evidence of three [3] or more outer body panels have been repaired and/or repainted;
No evidence of rust or corrosion
No evidence of flood or hail damage.
No vehicles with evidence of abuse (e.g. oil sludge).
No “true mileage unknown” units.
No branded titles (lemon law, buybacks, salvage, rebuilt, dismantle, junk, flood, etc.).
No power train component modifications (TRD modifications are acceptable).
No body modifications (special flarings and/or ground effects not acceptable; TRD modifications are acceptable, quality sun and moonroof installations are acceptable)
No suspension modifications (lowered, raised, altered 4WD, tires and wheels must be the same size and load rating as OEM; TRD modifications are acceptable).
No vehicles failing to meet the intent/spirit of the TCUV Process (if in doubt, do not certify)
Reconditioning – Must pass Toyota certified used vehicle 160-point mechanical inspection; must meet all detailing and appearance repair standards contained in this manual.
Acquisition Source – Any source, including trade-ins and purchases from private individuals, other dealers, wholesalers, and auctions. To be eligible, the vehicle must have been previously sold by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
Sale Type – Sale or lease to retail individuals only. Sale to fleets (any size), leasing companies, commercial users, and brokers are ineligible for certification benefits. For questions on sales eligibility, call your Regional TCUV Manager.

Mechanical Standards and Process Notes – Frame, Structure, and Underbody


Frame check (visual) – Check frame to be sure no damage has been done to frame; no non-factory welds; no cracks; not bent; no evidence of flood damage. See Explanation of Frame/Unibody Damage following Mechanical Standards and Process Notes.

Inspect body surface; panel alignment and fit; lower body and underbody for damage requiring traditional Body Shop Repairs. Inspect steering rack, linkage, bushings, control arms, and dust boots. Inspect transmission case and pans. Use of genuine Toyota sheet metal parts is required for repairs performed while the vehicle is owned by the dealership. Minor parking lot dents and dings may be removed after the detailing process using paintless dent removal techniques. See Explanation Excessive Body Damage following Mechanical Standards and Process Notes. Drive belts and hoses free of cracks or damage, and at proper tension. – Belt tension specs are an appropriate repair manual. Wheel covers, caps secure with no cracks or broken mount tabs. Remove all locking lug nuts (eliminates future customer problems over lost key). Aftermarket wheels of good quality and same size and offset are satisfactory. No reversed wheels; wheels are not bent.

Inspect tires for defects, damage, and proper inflation. Minimum of 5/32″ tread depth remaining across entire tread width. All 4 tires on the ground must be of the same brand, model, size, tread design, speed, and load rating. All tires, including spare, must meet same standards as OEM equipped tires. Wheels must be the same size and offset as OEM. No excessive damage, bulges, or cupping. If a condition exists, check wheel alignment.
All valve stems have caps.

If originally equipped with a full-sized spare, a full-sized spare must be present, properly inflated, and of the same size, speed and load rating as OEM equipped. Spare does not have to be the same brand as 4 tires on ground.


One of the basic principles of the TCUV Process is that only the “best of the best” used Toyotas should be certified. Any indications that there is/was frame or unibody damage, or any sign of structural repairs will automatically exclude the vehicle from the TCUV process. Following are indicators of frame/unibody damage which makes vehicle ineligible for certification:

Structural components can be defined as the major load-bearing and/or passenger-protecting structural components in the vehicle.

The following unibody components are defined as structural:

  • Front radiator supports (core support), both upper and lower
  • Front and rear side members (frame rails)
  • Front and rear wheel house/strut tower assemblies (front fender aprons)
  • A, B, C pillar assemblies
  • Inner and outer rocker panel assemblies
  • Floor pan, floor stiffener, floor tunnel
  • Trunk floor assembly
  • Front and rear suspension cross members
  • Door intrusion beams
  • Bumper reinforcement bars

While the outer panels (sheet metal door skins), rear quarter panels, and the rear body panel are welded to the structure and do play a part in vehicle structural integrity and crash protection, they are considered primarily cosmetic and are classified as nonstructural. Structural damage, therefore, is any frame/unibody damage affecting the designed performance of the components. Kinks, bends, cracks or tears, improper welding, heating or incorrect stress relieving during repair will alter the performance of a structural component. Minor scratches, small dents, smooth bends, or any damage that does not vary key dimensional reference points or standard body marks by more than 2 mm would not generally be considered a structural defect.

Please note that damage which causes misalignment of just 2mm will not be visible in most cases. Accurate dimensional measuring and wheel alignment inspection may be required to identify the type of minor misalignment. Bending damage causing dimensional changes greater than 2mm can usually be repaired through straightening and stress relieving and, if performed correctly, will generally not cause any loss of performance, strength, safety, or durability.

Previous Repairs

In general, previous structural repairs, especially poor quality repairs, are best identified from under the vehicle. This is the best place to start an inspection. Be thorough and methodical. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove the lower plastic engine covers to view the front side members and lower radiator support. Any of the items shown below should trigger a more thorough investigation:

  • Inspect all weld flange areas for signs of rust or separation. Check for the presence of high weld nuggets. Original factory resistance spot welds are normally concave or flat in appearance. They are usually replaced during repairs by a process known as MIG/GMAW plug-welding, which may leave a slightly higher nugget than the surrounding metal. They are normally ground flat in highly visible areas but may be left untreated on the lower section of the vehicle by some technicians. Undercoating and seam sealers will not always cover poor-quality welds.
  • Pay particular attention to the down-standing rocker panel pinch weld flange, especially the inner flange where it joins the floor pan. Look for signs of clamping (teeth marks left by pulling or anchoring clamps). Most structural repairs require the vehicle to be anchored by using some form of clamp to secure the pinch weld flange, and clamping may require the removal of factory-applied PVC chip-resistant coatings. High-quality repair shops will repair and re-coat the damaged area with chip-resistant primer, but most shops will generally leave this area untreated. In time, the exposed metal will rust. Clamp marks are usually obvious. Even if coated, replacement coatings may be a different color or texture than the originally installed product.
  • Inspect the front and rear bumper mounting areas for signs of distortion or straightening. Check the crush beads (depressions in the side members) for distortion or collapse. These crush-zones should have smooth bends and folds.


Excessive body damage regardless of whether it is not repaired, or repaired improperly, or even properly repaired will make a vehicle ineligible for certification. As with all Toyota Certified standards, common sense must be applied to ensure reasonable customer expectations are met. Determining what is or is not excessive body damage may be difficult. To assist in making the following items generally indicate that the vehicle is NOT eligible for certification:

  • The usage of imitation sheet metal body parts, radiators, or A/C condenser while 1) the vehicle is owned by a dealership, and 2) the vehicle is in the process of being reconditioned. Imitation sheet metal body parts do not carry a DOT label. Toyota genuine replacement parts will be indicated by an “R-DOT” label. The original part will have the model number identification of the DOT label. These labels are attached to the outer body panels such as hoods, fenders, bumpers, doors, quarter panels, deck lids, hatch lids, and tailgates.
  • Any evidence that three(3) or more outer body panels have been repaired and/or repainted through traditional body shop techniques. Bumpers are not considered outer body panels for the purpose of the 3-panel rule. Minor repair techniques such as paintless dent removal and paint touch-up are not considered traditional body shop repairs.
  • Poor previous paint/body repair: Look for paint on moldings, door handle gaskets, weather strips, overspray and dry paint in door jambs.
  • Any body panel that has more than 11.0 mils (280 microns) of paint film build. Paint thickness gages will alert the technician to the presence of cosmetic body filler.
  • Vehicles repainted with lacquer or enamel paint. To check for this condition, dampen a rag with lacquer solvent and rub a hidden test area of the finish. Toyota OEM finished will not be affected, nor will urethane refinish paint systems, but lacquer or enamel will dissolve and some paint will transfer to the rag.

Customer Reviews

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