Buying a Used Car Checklist and Inspection

When you buy a used car there are many points you need to consider, but most importantly you need to evaluate and inspect the car you are considering. This Buying a Used Car Checklist will help guide you the different items you need to inspect, test and analyze. This can give some idea of the dependability of the used car, avoid buying car scams and help you learn some other car buy tips.

When Buying a Used Car Check-list

Used Car Checklist Walk-Around and Visual Inspection

  • How is the overall appearance? Walk around the car and look at the overall appearance the body lines and make sure they match up and flow from front to back smoothly and line.
  • Are there any rust spots, bubbling paint or corrosion that is about to break through the paint? A sure sign that rust will be popping through soon.
  • Is the paint mismatched on any panels or sections? Make sure all the paint is exactly the same color rather have a panel or tow that looks like it has never paint which would indicate a body repair from an accident.
  • Look at all the doors, fenders, hood and trunk to see if any panel or door looks slightly different than an other and that they line up with each other.
  • How are the gaps between the doors, hood, trunk etc….If the gaps are not even and consistent throughout the vehicle that may be the sign of a repair from an accident.
  • Go around the used car and open and close the trunk, hood and doors to make sure they work smoothly and latch easily. When you open any door be sure it doesn’t drop down that would indicate worn hinges or latch.
  • Check all the door jambs and doors for mismatched paint or over spray from any body work that may have been done. Look at the hard to reach spots for any paint mismatches.
  • Open the doors and check the bottom inside of them for signs of rust or corrosion. A door can rust from the inside out and it show the first signs at the drain whole at the bottom of the door near that drain, but you can only see it when the door is open.
  • Stand back and look up and down the sides of the body for ripples in the body panels. The body should be smooth from front to back. Any ripples or un-smooth panels would tip you off that body repairs have been done. Notate any questions you have on your used car checklist so you won’t leave anything out later.
  • Look closely at all the glass, check the windshield and back window for cracks and chips. A small crack will grow in no time and you will have to replace the windshield or window. Note any issues you find on your used car checklist so you will have a complete list of items to cover during negotiations.

Inspect Tires and Wheels Check-list

  • Are all of the tires the same size? Get down there and take a look because they should be.
  • Are the tires all the same brand and style? You want they to be the same because different tires could be a slightly different size.
  • Do they have substantial tread life remaining or will you need to replace them soon?
  • Are there cracks, bubbles, gashes or cuts on the sidewalls?
  • Check the rims for damage while you are down there, you don’t want them to be bent or dented.
  • Are the tires wearing evenly from side to side? Uneven wear means the car is need of alignment.

Under the Hood Car Checklist

  • Check engine oil, is the oil clean? Is it white or milky, that would indicate moisture from an internal leak in the cooling system or very poor maintenance by the previous owner. This would make me think twice about this used car and start over with the used car checklist on a different car.
  • Check the transmission fluid (some cars have a sealed system) it should be clean and clear with a tint. Does the fluid smell like it is burnt? That smell could indicate your transmission is slipping or lack of maintenance. It could also mean that transmission repairs could be in the future.
  • Look around under the hood. Look for oil leaks or any kind of fluid under the hood and in the engine compartment.
  • Look at the battery terminals are they corroded? This could be a sign of poor or lack of maintenance.
  • Start the engine and listen, is it smooth and quiet, also check for leaks of any kind of fluid leaking while the engine is running.
  • Get down and peer under the car for any drips or oil spots, a very important part of the used car checklist that can tip you off about a future problem.
  • While the engine is running go around the back of the car. Is the exhaust have blue smoke? Blue smoke means that it is burning oil. Depending on the weather you may get some water vapor and steam. That is OK as long as it is no excessive. Is it loud or smell like unburned gasoline….it could be a injector or carburetor problem.
  • Push down on the gas peddle slightly while the transmission is in Park and listen for any knocking, pinging or whistling noise. This could be an engine problem, ignition problem or vacuum leak.
  • Does the engine accelerate quietly and smoothly and without sputtering or backfiring?
  • Put your foot on the brake and shift transmission back and forth from Park to Drive a couple times and listen for any excessive clunking or unusual noises? Could be the transmission, drive-shaft or U-joints.

Test Driving Checklist

  • Pay attention to the transmission, does it shift smoothly and quietly?
  • When slowing down does the transmission downshift, any clunking or jerking noises? It should be smooth and quiet.
  • Slowly move forward and then stop quickly and back up, does it operate properly without unusual noise? It should.
  • While driving straight down the road is there an unusual amount of play in the steering wheel?
  • When you apply the brakes while going straight does the wheel pull sharply to the side, a very important point of the used car checklist.
  • Make sure you drive over some bumps and railroad tracks to check for excessive bouncing? Which could mean worn shocks and struts.
  • Drive the car at highway speed and determine it rides smooth or if there are any unusual noises.
  • You should be able to let go of the wheel for a second while driving without the car darting to the side. If it does pull to the side, it could be the crown of the road or the car need front end work.
  • Get a feel for the car, are there any vibrations while driving at any speed?
  • Gently apply the brakes at highway speed and see if the brake pedal pulsates, if is does it could need brake work or front rotors.
  • While driving on a secluded road try to apply the brakes firmly and  make sure the pedal firm and the brakes are responsive.
  • Check the brake pedal, does it feel spongy or go too close to the floor? It shouldn’t.
  • When applying brakes is there and grinding or unusual noises?
  • take a look at the dash and check for any warning lights that come on while driving?
  • While you are driving at highway speed are there wind noises from doors or windows with the windows closed? It could mean that the door or window seal are in need of replacement or that the doors are out of alignment.

Interior Used Car and Inspection

  • Try all the windows and make sure they operate smoothly.
  • Check and make sure all the seats adjust forward, back and tilt if they are made to do that.
  • Check all the doors to make sure they lock and unlock properly from inside and with the key from the outside. Many people forget this when they go down the used car checklist, but it’s important.
  • Be sure that all the seat belts are accessible and in working order?
  • Check for dash lights such as the Service Engine or Air Bag light?
  • Make sure that the seats comfortable and that they are securely mounted to the floor.
  • Look closely at the carpet and the seats for stains that may have come from standing water.
  • Closely look around under the seats for any signs of rust or mildew from moisture.
  • Is there excessive wear on the rubber covering the brake or gas pedals. his usually an indicator of high mileage or hard driving.
  • Firmly take hold of the steering wheel try to move the steering column up and down and side to side, it should be solid and not move at all.
  • Be sure check all the headlights, high beams, marker lights, brake lights and turn signals so they are working order.
  • This is ranks high on the used car checklist, make sure the radio, CD player or tape player are working properly. Bring along a CD to check it out.
  • Try all the heating, air conditioning and climate controls are in good working order.
  • Make sure you receive an Owners Manual and 2 keys. Not all used cars have 2 keys, so you must make that condition of buying the used car because some keys today can cost over one hundred dollars.
  • Check the side mirrors and rear view mirrors to make sure they are present and in they are outside remote mirrors they should be in working order.
  • If the used car you are inspecting has a rear defroster be sure it works correctly.
  • Look closely at the Speedometer/Odometer to make sure it doesn’t look like some tampered with it or replace the head.
  • Obviously look over all the seats and door panels for tears, stains, or whatever.
  • Take a look at the headliner for stains, tears and that it is in place.
  • Make sure you open the trunk and that there is a spare tire that is in good shape, a jack and a lug wrench. Lat, but not least make sure your used car check list includes a spare because they can be very expensive.

That is quite an extensive used car check-list, but if you are spending your hard earned money you want know exactly what you are buying and what you can expect down the road. One thing that I did not mention earlier was the importance of getting a used car history report. Yes, they cost a couple bucks, but I personally would not buy a used car without know the history, it could have been in a flood, many accidents or any number of things. Get you AutoCheck History Report NOW!…Click Here. No used car checklist would be complete without a history report.

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