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The Ultimate List of What to Check When Buying a Used Car

Inspecting your potential new-to-you car can be somewhat intimidating. You spent all this time searching for the right car. The pressure is on because you want to make sure you are spending your money wisely. There are so many things you need to look at and on top of it all, the owner is just standing there watching you.

I get it. It can be stressful. The good news? It doesn’t have to be.

The first thing to keep in mind when looking at your potential car is that the ball is in your court. You get to decide what you are willing to spend your money on and if this car is the right one for you. Take your time checking out the car and pay attention to anything you see that seems unusual or like a potential issue.

Another tip: make sure you are looking at the car in the daytime. You want to be able to see the car clearly, down to the smallest blemish it may have.

There are a lot of things to look for when buying a car and knowing what to look for is crucial. With this checklist in hand, you’ll be able to thoroughly inspect the car and save yourself from an expensive headache down the road.

Here are all the things to check when buying a used car.

Exterior Audit

  • Check for any dents, dings, scrapes or chips
  • Look for sign of rust
  • Check every panel for sign that it is out of place, misaligned, or has been replaced
  • Inspect the tires, paying special attention to tread and wear
  • Look behind the tires at the brake discs and pads for any sign of warp or wear
  • Check the lenses of headlights and taillights for sign of moisture or fog
  • Look under the car for any damage, leaks or anything that seems out of place
  • Be sure to check the roof of the car

Take A Peek Under the Hood

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
  • Check oil level and color
  • Pay attention to how clean the oil cap is
  • Brake fluid should be filled
  • Check transmission fluid, which should be pink and smell like oil
  • Check the antifreeze color, which should be green or orange
  • Look at the radiator for any sign of leak or discoloration
  • Look for any sign of corrosion, rust, discoloration or water

Interior Analysis

  • Make sure all windows roll up and down
  • Check the emergency brake is working properly
  • Try putting all seats back and forth, up and down, etc.
  • Try out all interior and exterior lights
  • Don’t forget to try out the dashboard lights
  • Note the mileage
  • Test blinkers and emergency flashers
  • Try the windshield wipers on every setting
  • Don’t forget the rear wipes
  • Beep the horn
  • Try out the radio and make sure to test different volumes for speaker damage
  • Try out the heat and AC
  • Carefully review the vehicle’s service history
  • Look under carpets for any stains or damage
  • Don’t forget to look in the trunk or bed

Take it for a Test Drive

  • Start the car and listen for any squeaks, knocks or other noises
  • When you start out driving, pay attention to how the car feels
  • Test the brakes
  • Drive it on the highway, if possible, to test acceleration
  • Be sure to make some turns to test maneuverability
  • If the car has a manual transmission, definitely go through all the gears
  • Parallel park to get a feel for any blind spots
  • When you park, get out and listen to how the car sounds
  • Look under the car for any drips

Bonus: how to stay safe on a test drive.

Looks good! Now what?

You’ve inspected the car, taken it for a drive, agreed on a price. Here comes the fun part: paperwork. With FlipRide, it’s really not so bad. You can pay the seller, have the title transferred over to you, and set up a Buyer Seller Agreement all from one free mobile app. And the best part is, it’s all documented and virtually effortless.

See how FlipRide works and get your new ride today!