Checklist on How to Inspect a Used Car

Used cars | Vehiclecheckusa | VIN Check

Used cars are generally less expensive than new ones. There are a few other incentives associated with buying a used car like: It will save you money on car insurance, registration, taxes and depreciation (loss in a car’s value due to wear and tear over time). However, choosing the best option is nothing short of a treasure hunt.

It is advisable to research the cars you are interested in buying before you enter the market for a final purchase.

You can check our blog post on ‘How to buy a used car’ for points to be considered before buying a used car.

Once you are sure about the brand and budget of your used car purchase, before visiting a dealer keep this checklist handy. This checklist on how to inspect a used car will guide you in your search. Don’t forget to ask each and every question mentioned in the list. Follow the sequence as given and analyze each and every answer properly.

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Once you complete the inspection of the car, check the Vehicle History Report.

Note: Spoken promises are difficult to enforce. Hence, always ask your dealer for written promises.

The car basics
Vehicle Name:
Price Quoted
Trade in Value
Dealer Stock Number (Optional)
VIN Number:
Warranties for the vehicle:
________ AS IS – No Warranty (You will pay all cost for any repairs)
Warranty (Limited Warranty)
____________________ No ____________ Full __________________________ Limited Warranty
Details of limited warranty –
Duration Covered –
List of Major defects that you should inspect
Frame and Body
Bent or twisted frame
Windshield (Chips or Cracks)
Headlights (Foggy)
Rusty brake rotors
Inspection sticker current
Tire tread deoth less than 2/32 inch
Size of all 4 tires are same?
Visible wheel damage
Visible cracks, damages or repairs
Mounting bolts loose or missing
Looking for oil leakage (excluding normal seepage)
Check carefully for a cracked block or head
Missing belts, inoperable knocks or any misses related to camshaft lifters and pushrods
Abnormal exhaust discharge
Check for abnormal noise or vibration. Mostly such vibration is caused by faulty transmission or drive shaft.
Look for improper shifting or functioning in any gear
See for manual clutch slips or chatters
Cooling System
Checking for leakage including a radiator
Check the functioning of water pump
Electrical System
Battery leakage
Check the functioning of the alternator, battery, generator or starter
Fuel System
Any visible leakage
Inoperable Accessories
Check the heater, defroster and air conditioner
Gauges or warning devices
Brake System
Check for failure warning, also check whether the light is broken
Pedal not firm under pressure or Not enough pedal reserve
Rotor too thin or Hoses damaged Drum
Lining or pad thickness should be 1/32 inch
Power unit not operating or leaking
Check for any structural or mechanical parts damaged
Steering System
The steering wheel should not be too much free
Steering gear should not bind or jam
Check, if the front wheels are aligned improperly
Power unit belts should not be cracked or slipping
Check the level of power unit fluid
Suspension System
Check the ball joint seals, spring
Structural parts, stabilizer shouldn’t be bent or damaged
Check the functioning of shock absorber
Radius rod should not be damaged
Check the rips on seats
Headliner (It should not be saggy)
Under the car
Any leaks near the engine, rear diff
Check rust on body, exhaust,frame etc.
Suspension(axle, shocks, tie rods and ball joints)
Frame Damage (from collision)
Ask the owner
Any service records, documents, how often are you servicing the car?
What did you use the car for?
How many miles did you put on it when you owned it?
What car are you looking to get now? Why?