Checklist for Buying a Used Car


Buying a used car is a very affordable option for those who don’t want to pay extra hefty amounts for brand-new cars. However, buying a used car can be just a little bit complicated than buying a new one. That is because a used car come with different warranties, different documents, and different physical condition. You have to be vigilant about these things because you don’t want to waste money.

Paying attention to all that can be difficult and complicated – you might even miss a few things and regret them later. Therefore, we have provided you a checklist below to keep with you when you are buying a used car.

Let’s get to it.

Things to Check When Buying a Used Car

Physical and Functional Checks

First, let’s start with physical and functional checks, basic things in the car inspection checklist.

1.    Engine

The engine must be in a good condition, if not the best. If the engine oil is creamy or has an extra brown color, it is probably mixed with coolant, and you are looking at future repairs. Check engine oil before and after the test drive to check the sludge and identify the faulty parts in an engine.

The engine shouldn’t make unusual noises during the drive. If it is, leave the car, because these noises will turn into bigger problems.

2.    Accident Patterns, Rust, and Signs of Abuse

Rust on body parts expands more and weakens the car, so it is best to avoid the car with rusty body parts, including panels, pillars, boots, and radiator support. Moreover, if the car shows signs of collision, dents, or signs of abuse, it means that it was being driven like a race car. Buying that car or not is your choice, but you should know about it.

3.    Fluid Leakage

Fluid leakages indicate the worse situation of the car, and you can’t risk it. Take the car on a test drive to thoroughly check for all potential fluid or oil leakages.

4.    Smoke and Steam from the Exhaust

The steam usually comes out of the car’s exhaust in winters, it doesn’t mean that the car is defective. However, when the smoke comes out, there’s something to worry about. If the smoke is white, it means that the engine coolant is leaking – you might want to avoid that car. Blue smoke means that engine oil is burning in the combustion chamber, which is dangerous and should be avoided. Third, black smoke comes when the vehicle burns too much fuel; it’s not really bad but not preferable for the vehicle’s health.

5.    Paint Job

Original and manual paint job critically impacts the car’s value. It is hard to catch it with naked eyes. Get a professional car expert to inspect the vehicle to make sure the paint job is real.


After the whole used car inspection, which would bring out possible faults on the surface, documents of the car are to be considered.

6.    Title

The title means ownership. If the car is used, it means it has been sold before. Making sure that the owner is responsible and present for the sale is very important. If the title belongs to the financing company, it means that the seller financed the car and hasn’t paid the loan yet, which is a huge red flag.

7.    Bills of Sale

Bill(s) of sale refers to the documents made when the car was last sold to the current seller. It should include details about the car and the previous owner, including make & model, vehicle identification number, names and contacts of the previous owner, date of sale, and price.

8.    Rebuilt and salvage titles

Rebuilt means that the car has been in an accident where it was totalled and was rebuilt again – these cars have much less price than non-rebuilt cars. Salvage titles refer to the insurance-declared titles, which mean that the car has been totalled so severely that it requires more cost to repair it than its original value. You can contact the relevant car insurance help centres for more information.

Final Checks

Now, let’s move on to the bigger steps.

9.    OBD Codes

On-board diagnostic codes are of two kinds: permanent and historic. A scanner attached to the car will reveal the OBD code. The permanent code indicates a serious problem with the car, and you should avoid such cars. Some people hide the faulty codes with old data so the scanner cannot detect them. You should get an expert professional to be sure if the system has been messed with.

10. Test Drive

Whatever problems you might not detect in the first look and physical test, you will in the test drive. A test drive will especially tell you about steering and suspension; how well the car operates and follows the driver’s commands.

Once you have checked everything, it’s time for you to make a decision. Make a wise one.


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