November 17, 2023

How to Properly Inspect Used Car Before Buying?

By Sonia

Buying a used car can be an exciting and cost-effective option for many people.

Unlike buying a brand-new car, a used car has already undergone its initial depreciation and can be a great value.

However, buying a used car also comes with its own set of risks.

One of the biggest concerns when purchasing a used car is ensuring that it is in good condition and will not require any major repairs shortly.

How to Properly Inspect Used Car Before Buying?: eAskme
How to Properly Inspect Used Car Before Buying?: eAskme

Whether you want to buy your dream car from an auto auction, a private seller, or a dealership, it is essential to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before making the purchase.

This comprehensive guide will provide all the necessary steps to properly check a used car before buying it.

1. Ask the Right Questions:

The first and most crucial step in inspecting a used car is to ask the right questions. Before you even start looking at the vehicle, gather as much information as possible from the seller.

Ask about the car's history, including any accidents or repairs it has gone through. 

Inquire about its maintenance records and if it has had any significant replacements.

Getting all the information upfront is crucial to make an informed decision about the car's condition and potential issues.

2. Exterior Inspection:

Once you have gathered enough information, it is time to inspect the vehicle visually. Start by walking around it and checking for any signs of damage or rust.

Look closely at the body panels, doors, and fenders to ensure they are aligned and symmetrical. Any inconsistencies could indicate previous accidents or repairs.

Then, check the paint job. Look for discoloration, scratches, or dents the seller may not have mentioned.

You should also pay attention to the tires and their tread depth to ensure they are in good condition.

3. Under the Vehicle and Hood Inspection:

  • It's crucial to inspect underneath the vehicle. Look for any signs of leaks, rust, or damage to the exhaust system.
  • Pay close attention to the condition of the suspension system and the state of the CV joints and drive shaft.
  • Under the hood, start by examining the radiator for any leaks or corrosion. You should also check the cooling fans for any cracks or damage.
  • Fluid checks are equally important. Inspect the engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and coolant levels, ensuring they are at the proper levels and appear healthy.
  • The vehicle's battery also deserves attention.
  • Check for any signs of corrosion around the battery terminals, indicating a poorly maintained car.
  • For electric and hybrid vehicles, it is essential to check the condition of the battery pack and its charge level. This is crucial, as replacing a battery pack can be expensive.

4. Interior Inspection:

The inspection should then move onto the interior of the vehicle. Examine the upholstery for any signs of wear and tear or stains.

Check all the seatbelts to ensure they're in good working order. Take note of the scent inside the car, too; a musty or mildew smell could indicate water leaks or damage.

Next, focus on the dashboard area.

Check all the dials and gauges to ensure they're working correctly.

Don't forget to test the air conditioning, heater, and all the lights. Make sure the windows, sunroof, and other features operate smoothly.

Finally, don't forget the trunk. Look for any signs of water damage or rust.

Check the spare tire, jack, and other tools are present and in good condition. Also, ensure the trunk space suits your needs, as it can be a deal-breaker for some buyers.

5. Read the Window Sticker:

The Federal Trade Commission mandates car dealers to post a Buyers Guide on every used vehicle offered for sale.

This guide provides comprehensive information about the car, including the make, model, year, and VIN. It includes details about existing warranties or if the car is being sold "as is."

By reading the window sticker, you can also find out if the vehicle has a history of accidents or major repairs.

It may also include important information such as fuel efficiency, safety ratings, and additional features.

6. Get a Vehicle History Report:

A thorough inspection and reading of the window sticker are insufficient to get a complete picture of the car's history.

It is always recommended to obtain a vehicle history report.

This report will disclose any significant accidents, repairs, or title issues the car may have had. It may also show whether the car has been used for rental or commercial purposes.

You can purchase a vehicle history report from various sources, such as Carfax or AutoCheck.

These reports typically cost between $20 to $40 but can provide valuable information that can save you from buying a lemon.

7. Take It for a Test Drive:

Once you have completed the initial inspection and reviewed the window sticker and vehicle history report, it's time to take the car for a test drive. This is one of the most crucial steps in inspecting a used car before purchasing.

Observe how the car handles, accelerates, and brakes during the test drive. Listen for strange noises or vibrations and test all the features, such as air conditioning, audio system, and lights.

Also, test-drive the car on different types of roads, such as highways, city streets, and bumpy roads, to get a feel for its overall performance.

8. Have a Mechanic Inspect It:

Even if you know about cars, having a professional mechanic inspect the vehicle before buying is always a good idea.

They can catch any underlying issues that may not be apparent during your inspection or test drive.

A mechanic can also estimate any future repair and maintenance costs that may need to be addressed later. This information can help you negotiate a fair price for the car.


If you feel unsure about the car's condition or have concerns about potential issues during the inspection or test drive, don't be afraid to walk away.

It's better to pass on a questionable vehicle than to end up with a money pit.

Remember, plenty of used cars are on the market, so don't feel pressured to make a hasty decision. Take your time, follow these steps, and find a reliable used car that fits your needs and budget.

Still have any question, do share via comments.

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