Once a new vehicle leaves the dealers lot it can lose value for no other reason then it is now considered a used car. For this reason a used vehicle can provide better bang for the buck then buying new but only if it is in good running condition.
Whether you are buying a car that is six months old or six years old it is important that you inspect the vehicle yourself and depending on the amount you are paying take the car to a qualified mechanic to have it inspected in more detail
Having a mechanic inspect a used vehicle is one step that most people never follow through on before making a purchase. The primary reason for this if we are lucky is that our cars work we don’t usually have a close relationship with a local mechanic. Another reason may be that we are too timid to demand an outside inspection or we don’t want to lose the deal.
Since you will likely be performing the only or initial inspection of the car you hope to purchase the following checklist will give you a starting place for things you should look for when buying a new used car.
Used Car Inspection Checklist
Initial Walk Around
Body Damage and Paint Condition
Windows / Glass Cracks Scratches Operation
Tires Damage and Wear Check
Wheels – Damage
Exhaust System – Rust, Holes, Noise
Battery Posts & Cables
Battery Fluid Level
Air Conditioning – Operation
Alternator – Charging
Engine Wiring Harness
Transmission Fluid Level
Power Steering Fluid Level
Radiator Fluid Level
Power Steering Pump – Operation Leaks
Power Steering Belt
Vacuum Hoses – Cracks Leaks
Inspect Hoses and Clamps
Spark Plug Condition
Spark Plug Wire Condition
Steady High RPM
Wiper Washer Pump
Front End Alignment (can it drive straight with hands off the wheel)
CV Boots & Axels
Steering Operation, Tie Rod Ends, Gearbox
Suspension Mounting Bolts
Breaks – Operation
Master Cylinder – Leaks, Fluid Level
Break Fluid Leaks at all four wheels
Inspect Parking Brake
Seat belts – Presence and operation
Rear View Mirrors – Presence and Operation
Seat – Tears or damage
Interior – Tears or damage
Radio – Presence and operation
Glovebox / Compartment Lock
Trunk or Hatch Locks
Headlights High Beam Low Beam
Emergency Warning Lights
Reverse Light back of car
Check Engine Light with Key On but Off when running
All Warning Lights Light At First Key On then turn off
Look for hidden rust under the passenger compartment & in trunk
Check Spare Tire and Jack
Do the Miles Match The Inspection Sticker
Vin Number Match to Title
Call Dealer ask about Recalls – Provide vin number.
Is Original Manufacturer Warranty still Active and Transferable to you.
Title Background Check You can do this online or call your State’s DMV
Judging The Value
Remember that every car will eventually need repairs and even new vehicles can have recalls that happen days, weeks or even years after the car leaves the dealer.
The important thing to remember is that not all vehicles of the same or similar type hold their value. Some manufacturers have a long life when retaining value and others can lose half or more of their street value within 5 to 7 years.
You need to know the used or book value of a car in order to judge what it is worth. Most book stores carry pocket guides with values based on condition. Use these numbers, your inspection and your desire to buy to set a price.
This list is only a small list of items that you should check for when inspecting your vehicle.
A professional mechanic will have tools necessary to inspect the vehicle in closer detail and can probably give you a good idea of what you should pay and what work needs to be performed.
When inspecting the engine compartment you want to check for any leaking fluids that may mean a component needs to be serviced or replaced.
When making your initial walk around you want to do so in an area that is not cramped and take a look at how the body panels line up. Look for any differences in the paint that may indicate an accident and repair has been made. Gaps between body panels should be even all the way around the panel.
Inspect under the car, in rear wheel wells and in the trunk for rust.
Something as simple as a missing spare tire can cost you $50 at the junkyard. This can be an inconvenience or it can be one more thing that adds up to a lower price you should pay.