The 52-Point Checklist: A Buyer’s Guide to Inspecting a Used Car
In the market for a (new) used car? While used cars can give you lots of bang for your buck, they may be prone to a slew of issues that aren’t apparent at first glance. To ensure you get a vehicle that’ll be with you for the long haul, use this comprehensive 52-point checklist when inspecting the vehicles you have your eye on. Being thorough during the purchase stage can save you a world of headaches and expenses further down the road.
- Is the windshield free of cracks?
- Do the body panel colors match?
- Does the magnet adhere to all steel body panels?
- Are there signs of rust or corrosion?
- Are the seams where the trunk and hood close properly aligned?
- Are the seams where the doors and fenders meet properly aligned?
- Is the car free of scratches?
- Is the car free of dents?
- Do the windshield wipers and blades operate smoothly?
- Are the headlines and directional lights fully operative?
- Are the seats unworn and free of cracks?
- Do all doors open and close properly and smoothly?
- Does the trunk open and close properly and smoothly?
- Are all the gauges fully operative?
- Does the dashboard light point to check engine or another problem?
- Does the stereo work?
- Does the heater work?
- Does the ac work?
- Do the windshield wiper fluids dispense properly?
- Are all seats equipped with seatbelts?
- Does the sunroof open and close properly?
- Does the car alarm sound when prompted?
- Does the trunk and driver-side door lock and unlock with a key?
- Do the hazard lights work?
- Are the headlights fully operative?
- Are the brights fully operative?
- Is the engine free of fluid or oil leaks?
- Is the oil filler neck free of thick, black deposits?
- Are the battery terminals free of corrosion?
- Is the oil dipstick free of dark, black oil?
- Is the engine free of odors while running?
- Are the exhaust pipe emissions not blue (that means the engine is burning oil) or black (that means bad fuel efficiency)?
- Does the transmission fluid look clean (it should be bright red or pink if clean)? If not, that might mean there’s a problem with the transmission.
- Does the transmission slip or delay when driving and shifting gears? The answer should be no.
- Does each gear shift smoothly?
- Is there a grinding noise when you reverse? The answer should be no.
- Does the car drift to one side even when the steering wheel is straight?
- Is the vehicle stable? Is there any shaking or vibrating when in motion?
- Is there any resistance when turning the steering wheel?
- Is there any clicking or clunking when turning? There shouldn’t be.
- Does the parking brake engage and disengage freely?
- Are you applying a lot of pressure just to brake the car? That might point to worn brakes that need replacing.
- Is there a grinding noise when braking? There shouldn’t be.
- Are tires consistent in terms of same make/brand?
- Are tires free of cuts, cracks, and other damages?
- Are tires evenly worn? Uneven wear can signify problems with alignment and suspension.
- Is there a spare tire? Does it pass the above questions?
- When steering the vehicle, does it drive straight or drift?
- Does the vehicle rest evenly?
- Has the seller provided the owner’s manual?
- Has the seller provided service and repair records of the vehicle?
- Does the owner have a free and clear title?
This checklist should give you the confidence to weed out high- vs. low-quality used cars on the market. Enjoy your used car hunting, and remember to do your homework on used car inspection and care now, to avoid issues later.