A Case of Cut And Shut?

Not all used car sellers are disreputable and it’s unfortunate that the “good” ones find it hard to differentiate themselves from the “bad” ones. In the name of helping you avoid the more serious or more common types of fraud the Kicker will attempt to make you aware of types of fraud or schemes that we run across (within the car industry at least.) 

What is a Cut and Shut?

Cut and shut for instance is when two mechanically identical cars — so not necessarily physically identical — are welded together. One of the cars has been involved in the accident damaging the front, the other involved in an accident damaging the rear.

A lot of cars receive side impact damage, and many are sandwiched—taking damage in both the front and the rear. However, most car accidents result from rear-ending someone, or being rear-ended by someone. A lot of these “write offs” are labeled Category C or D and as such should NEVER legally used again. The nature of modern crumple zones means that the car is designed to absorb impact from the wreck instead of passing it onto the vehicle occupants. Re-using a frame with this sort of damage is like reusing an airbag that’s been deployed once.

On the bright side, many of the cars damaged in this type of accident aren’t seriously destroyed but end up costing more to fix than they’re worth, which means the insurance company considers them totaled. Cars in that condition can be repaired and sold with a “branded” title. However, most end up in a junk yard where parts that weren’t harmed are sold off bit by bit to replace worn out parts on cars of like kind or quality.

It’s a pretty efficient system and works pretty well to the advantage of consumers.

The Problem is when Someone gets Greedy:

A cut and shut is when someone welds the back half of one car onto the front half of another car. The danger starts from the fact that you would do this with cars that were at all candidates for repair. The person who would do this is going to pick what’s cheapest—which is two cars with compromised frames. Then the problem is magnified by the welding, which is usually roughshod.

This could just be the most hazardous kind of automobile fraud. The icing on the cake is that if you can get this car insured you’re unknowing committing insurance fraud. It is best to leave this particular “species” of car well alone.

Spotting this Kind of Fraud:

One of the first warning signs is underpricing. If it’s too good to be true it probably is.

These types of cars are sold on the internet by obscured or grainy photos or what are known as “library photos” – generic pictures of that type of car. It’s a good idea to see the car in proper daylight, not in the rain, mist or snow. Nor should you see the car in a garage or storage bay. These conditions can cause you to miss vital signs about the vehicle in question.

Before you even look at the car:

It’s advisable to consider the seller of the car. If they are courteous and eager to answer questions then fine, but if they are evasive and keep coming up with excuses, they might be hiding something. The seller of this type of car may have welded the car themselves and know the welding is substandard. If you take someone with you who can watch the seller while the car is inspected you can pick up on warning signs.

What you’re Looking For:

When investigating the car, examine the point at the back end where the roof meets the rear panel. Look in the trunk, including under the carpet or whatever. Are there uneven lines? Are there changes in paint color? When touching it, does it feel wrong?

Be aware of any signs of cutting, welding or spraying – one example would be paint spray on door handles or some unknown spillage of solder on the windows.


If you’re a longtime reader of the Kicker, you won’t be surprised by this sort of scam. You’ve been cautioned against taking things at face value for the last 5 years. You’ve also heard us say that you don’t need to fear buying a second hand vehicle—it can be an affordable option.

Despite doing your best to spot this type of scam, the best way to avoid it is to use a professional car inspector. Let someone who knows cars better than you, who isn’t distracted by their own emotional connection to the vehicle or the opportunity for a bargain examine the vehicle while you keep your eyes on the seller. Our sponsor, TireKickers.com, is one of the best and most convenient you’ll ever find.

If you feel you have been shown a car which possibly is a cut and shut, please inform the police and/or local trade organization. Otherwise the disreputable sellers and welders will keep conning the public as if nothing is wrong.

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