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Used Vehicles Inspection Checklist: How Do I Check A Used Car?

Used Vehicles Inspection Checklist: How Do I Check A Used Car?

If you are searching for “how do I check a used car?” Here's the best Used Vehicles Inspection Checklist:

1-    Prepare all necessary material and equipment

2-    Review the paperwork

3-    Check the vehicle exterior

4-    Inspect the tires

5-    Take a closer look at the engine

6-    Inspect the battery

7-    Check the transmission

8-    Inspect the brakes

9-    Check the steering system

10- Take a closer look at the interior

Buying a brand-new vehicle can be extremely challenging, especially with the overpriced automobile nowadays. Therefore, many people switched to buying used vehicles to save on money. However, buying a used vehicle requires some research and due diligence to prevent a vehicle with major mechanical problems.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

Typically, automotive experts recommend hiring a professional mechanic to help you inspect the vehicle and detect and unrevealed any issues that you cannot spot. However, some shoppers might see the private mechanic as an extra expense that could add to the vehicle. Therefore, they end up purchasing the vehicle themselves.

The good news is that even though you can't afford or don't want to hire a professional mechanic, there are certain things you can look for to help yourself prevent purchasing a vehicle with major problems as much as possible.

Although you obviously won't have the same experience as the professional mechanic to detect the problem spot, going through a certainly used vehicle inspection checklist should do a good job.

This article provides you with an overview of items you should inspect when purchasing a used vehicle.

Used vehicle inspection checklist: how do I check a used car?

If it's your first time buying a used vehicle, you might not have the right level of experience to prevent buying a vehicle with major problems.

Let's take a closer look at the best “used vehicles inspection checklist” and some of the common and most important items you need to inspect when shopping for your next vehicle:

1-    Prepare all necessary material and equipment

Before you go for the vehicle inspection, you need to ensure that you have all the necessary equipment you use for the inspection. For example, inspecting the used vehicle typically requires the following items:

  • A pen and a notebook to document all necessary information, including the asked price, the mileage, the vehicle's make, model, year, and any other relevant information.
  • To check the engine oil, you'll need some paper towels
  • Sometimes having a flashlight can be very handy, especially if you want to check for any signs of rust or corrosion
  • A magnet is needed for checking any bodywork issues
  • To test the serial, consider getting a CD or an AUX cable.
  • Get the vehicles history report

2-    Review the paperwork

Before you further inspect the vehicle, make sure that the vehicle matches the paperwork and the information in the advertisement. Many times people might have some information in the ad that does not exactly match the actual vehicle.

  • Consider checking the vehicle registration and the title. Don't forget to confirm that the person who sold you the vehicle is its legal owner by comparing his name on the ID to the name listed on the vehicle's title.
  • Review the title carefully to confirm that no lien or anything listed on the title prevents the owner from selling this vehicle. Many times, inexperienced cars buyers might get into a lot of scams just because of similar issues.
  • Consider checking the vehicle's history report because it will give you a lot of information about whether this vehicle was involved in major car accidents and whether the title was rebuilt, which indicates that it was considered totaled or junked previously.
  • Check if the owner has some paperwork showing the regular maintenance because if the owner did so, it indicates that what's under the hood is in good condition and the vehicle has been taken care of.

3-    Check the vehicle exterior

Once you have the required items, start by inspecting the exterior and looking into the following items:

  • Take a closer look at the windshield and see if there are any signs of cracks. Sometimes the cracks start small and can grow over time, especially if you drive at high speeds.
  • Test the lock and unlock features from the driver's side
  • Take a closer look at the different headlights and the hazard lights to ensure they're working properly, including the high beams adding directional signal headlights.
  • Consider checking the vehicle's body for any signs of pain, damages, or rust. Sometimes the paint might have been done by hand, and it will clearly show that it was not done by a professional, reducing the vehicle's price. Also, don't forget to check for any signs of scratches because these can also help you ask for a lower offer.
  • Test all the doors and make sure that they align and closed properly.

4-    Inspect the tires

Once you're done looking at the vehicle's exterior, the next step is to carefully inspect the tires because there are many elements that you might skip thinking it's OK. Here are some of the important items to consider when inspecting a used vehicles tire:

  • Check the tire's brand name because you want to make sure it's a reputable name from the big most reputable companies like Goodyear and Michelin, for example.
  • Ensure that all the tires are from the same brands because if they're not, they might wear unevenly, making some significant troubles in this adventure system.
  • Look at every single tire and make sure there are no signs of small scratches or damages that could get complicated over time of use. Also, make sure there are no bubbles on the tires because they might indicate significant tire damage shortly.
  • Check the threads of the tires because if the thread is not deep enough, the vehicle will not grip properly in the road, and therefore, it can make you drive more dangerous, especially if you're driving in winter. If you found that the tires do not have the proper tread level, you can highlight this to the seller and probably request a lower ask price to take care of these tires and replace them if needed.
  • Don't forget the spare tire. Take a closer look at that as well because you might need it at some point in time, and if it's not in good condition or if it's missing, it is to your advantage if you're happy with the vehicle.
  • Finally, don't forget to take a closer look at the tires' pressure level because it can also be a big component when driving your vehicle properly and having the best driving experience smoothly.

5-    Take a closer look at the engine

Once you're done with the exterior and the tires, the next step is to dig deeper and look at the major components like the engine.

There are a couple of items you have to check in the engine, and you don't necessarily need to go thoroughly inside every component. Typically, you would want to inspect the oil level and any symptoms of oil leaks.

Also, as we look at the engine oil, consider checking the oil filter and ensuring that there is no thick tar layer covering it that could cause major engine damage.

If the engine smells anything weird that is very strong when you start the vehicle, it indicates an internal problem. Thus, you want to make sure that the engine does not smell in a general well that the smell is good or bad.

It's OK for the engine to bounce slightly as you start the vehicle, but you want to make sure that the bouncing is even across all engine corners because otherwise, it might be an issue with the engine.

6-    Inspect the battery

The better is one of the major components that many people fall into scams by buying cars with measure battery problems. The good news is that you can quickly tell whether the battery is in condition or not by just visually inspecting it.

Take a closer look at the battery, and if you see any symptoms of battery inflation where the battery is bigger than it should be, it indicates that the internal chemicals have a problem. Also, if the battery terminals and cables have some rust or corrosion signs, it indicates some problems you might face soon.

7-    Check the transmission

Checking the transmission is not a very complicated job, but you might need to follow a different procedure when checking in manual versus an automatic transmission vehicle.

Generally speaking, if the vehicle is utilizing an automatic transmission, consider checking the transmission fluid and making sure that it's clean and doesn't have any contamination symptoms. Also, check for any transmission symptoms slipping because it can cause difficulty driving the vehicle shortly.

On the other hand, if you're planning to purchase a used vehicle with a manual transmission, you want to make sure that the gears shift smoothly and the clutch does not have any problem, especially if you put the vehicle on reverse.

8-    Inspect the brakes

After checking off the engine and the transmission from the used vehicles' inspection checklists, the next step is to look at the brakes because this is the most sensitive and important system in the vehicle that impacts our safety.

Consider checking the brake pedals and see for symptoms like weird vibration or burning smell because it indicates that the braking system is not working properly.

9-    Check the steering system

The steering system also has to do with your safety, and therefore you want to make sure that you have good control of the vehicle, especially when driving at higher speeds. Therefore, when inspecting the steering system, ensure that the vehicle does not pull into one side more than the other.

Although the vehicle pulls in one side more than the other, it could indicate an issue with other components; it's most likely related to a bad steering system.

When using the vehicle, make sure that the steering system that does not vibrate weirdly indicates internal issues.

10- Take a closer look at the interior

After inspecting the critical components that could impact your safety, he can go ahead now and take a closer look at other components that might impact your comfort when driving the vehicle.

  • Some of these components would be inspecting the overall interior for any symptoms of cracks or damages that could leak some snow or water inside the vehicle and damage the internal components.
  • Ensure that the doors close properly and all the dashboard gauges work without any problem. Don't forget to inspect the AC system and the heater because those can be a big headache if you drive in environments with harsh temperatures.
  • Test the seatbelts and make sure that they close and open properly.
  • Roll the windows up and down and check for any symptoms of windows issues.
  • If the vehicle has a sunroof, consider checking if it's worked properly or if it has any leaks that could allow moisture to get inside the vehicle.
  • Finally, consider testing the infotainment system and the other components like the stereo. Although these components are not a big deal and will not impact their safety, taking care of them should be huge. I'd like it if you rely on them for a long trip driving.


Buying used vehicles is no longer a complicated job, especially with the available online platforms that connect you with thousands of potential sellers. However, with the growth of the online markets, many inexperienced car buyers get into many scams.

Therefore, to prevent purchasing a vehicle with major mechanical problems, this article walked you through the best “used vehicles inspection checklists” that you can review to prevent falling into scams and buy a vehicle that will cause you many headaches shortly.

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