How To – Used Car Pre-Purchase Inspection Checklist

Be Sociable, Share!

    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
    Tire Pressure
    Tires  Damage and Wear Check
    Wheels – Damage
    Exhaust System – Rust, Holes, Noise
    Wiper Blades


    Battery Posts & Cables
    Battery Fluid Level
    Battery Cables
    Air Filter
    Air Conditioning – Operation
    Alternator – Charging
    Alternator Belt
    Fuse Block
    Engine Wiring Harness
    Oil Level
    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
    Throttle Body
    Spark Plug Condition
    Spark Plug Wire Condition
    Idle RPM
    Steady High RPM
    Wiper Washer Pump
    Wiper Operation

    Suspension Inspection
    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
    Interior Lights
    CD Player
    Door Locks
    Glovebox / Compartment Lock
    Trunk or Hatch Locks

    Dash Lights
    Headlights High Beam Low Beam
    Break Lights
    Emergency Warning Lights
    Turn Signals
    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.

    Final Note

    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.







    Be Sociable, Share!