How To Check A Used Car Before Buying
Cars,  Auto Engines,  Auto Parts

How To Check A Used Car Before Buying?

Are you on the lookout for a used car.? I’ll tell you how you can save a few good bucks and yet have a car of your choice. Remember that old is not always gold, particularly if it is a used car. People often say, “You’re lucky if you get a car free of any trouble.”

I can say it is your investigative skills, watchful eyes, probing mind, and research approach that aid you in finding the right kind of used car. I can aid you in checking a used car by taking you to its various broader aspects and individual components.


checking used car

Photo Credit:

Reliability Profile

From the Annual Subscriber Survey of the Consumer Report, you can find out the actual reliability information related to specific models of car in the market. Try to find out a list that mentions about the cars that perform the best and those that are the worst. Go through the history of reliability chart, coming along with model pages. From this, you can find seventeen trouble-prone areas of the car. While inspecting the car, you must focus your probe on those areas.

Warranty or As-is-where-is

As required by the Federal Trade Corporation, for every used vehicle, the dealer has to provide a Buyer’s Guide with respect to every vehicle that has been used and offered for resale. This is usually fixed on a window of the vehicle. The information includes if the vehicle is supported by warranty or not and what the repair cost will be borne by the dealer. I’ll suggest the one that comes with the manufacturer’s warranty.


Instead of relying solely on your inspection, you can take the help of a friend. Carry on the inspection in broad daylight, parking the car on a level surface. Ensure that the car was not driven for an hour before your inspection.

The Inspection may be carried, broadly of two parts: Exterior and Interior



Photo Credit:

1. Body Conditions

Have a thorough inspection of each of the panels and roofs, giving particular attention to dents, scratches, rusting, misaligned panels, lines of fenders and doors, and the finished paint. If you feel, the Dent is given a cosmetic touch with any filler, you can check it by putting a magnet on it; fillers will not be attracted.

Similarly, if any repainting is done, you can identify it by observing the paint that adheres to the rubber seals surrounding the hood of the car. You can check any rusting or blistering of paint by checking the outer body. Check the wells of the wheels, the bottom of the door, and also the rocker panels lying below the doors. If the doors are loose on the hinges, they must have been subjected to longer and harder use

2. Glass

Make sure that there are no large pocket areas or any cracks. If there are cracks in the window shield, you may have to go in for a costly repair

3. Suspensions

Ensure that the car is standing on the level. To check the condition of the suspension, put up and down, bouncing to each corner of the car. If the car rebounds only once, it is in good condition. To check the wheel bearing or suspension joints, grab the top of the front tire and move it back and forth. If there is play or you hear a ticking sound, there is a problem.

4. Lights and Lenses

Switch on all the lights, one by one and with the help of a friend, confirm that they are working all right. Ensure that the reflectors and lenses of the light are not smeared with moisture or are not cracked.

III: Interior Inspection

Interior Inspection

Photo Credit:

  • Odor: If you feel a moldy, musty and mildew smell, there may be water leaks. To be sure, remove the floor mats and check if the carpet has wet spots.
  • Seats: Check all the seats to be satisfied with the condition of the upholstery and the adjustments provided by the manufacturer.
  • Pedals: Check the rubber, covering the pedals of clutch, brake, and clutch. Less wear indicates lower miles run. Excessively worn out or new rubber indicates more mileage run.
  • Instruments & Controls: After turning, don’t start the engine to see if all the warning lights go off after illuminating for a few seconds while you put the engine to start. Find out if the engine starts with difficulty. And when the engine is running, check how quickly the A/C makes it cold and how early the heater heats.
  • Sound Systems: Check the reception of the FM and AM radio, CD player, or the devices for playing iPod or MP3
  • Roof: Have a checking of the roof trim and headliner for snags or stains to see if there is any leakage along the sunroof or through the doors or windows that are ill-fitted.

IV: Engine Components; Under the Roof

short circuit in car

Photo Credit:

Make the following checks when the engine is cool. After opening the hood, if you find loose hoses hanging or battery is corroded, you can be sure a poor maintenance.

  • Hose & Belts: Check the suppleness of the rubber hoses to the radiator and air conditioner by squeezing them. Also feel the drive belts for determining if they are worn out.
  • Fluids: If you find the engine oil colored as honey, it must have been recently changed. If you insert a dipstick and find water droplets or foam-like oil on it, it could be an indication of cracking of the engine block or blowing off the head gasket. If you find particles of metals on the dip stick, on the rag, that is the sign of serious problem
  • Radiator: Be alert of pinhole leakage if you find stains of greenish color on the outside of the radiator.
  • Battery: Usually, batteries have indicators to exhibit the extent of charge. An indication of green color shows that battery is in good shape and yellow indicates that it is in a dying or dead state.

V: Tires with Well-Tread & Balancing

car maintenance tips

Photo Credit:

Tires running below 20,000 miles look original, and there is a chance of being misled if the speedometer is rolled back. If all the four tires are not the same, there are chances; they had been replaced. Confirm that the tires have been regularly rotated. If not, there will be more wear on the drive wheel.

If you find uneven wearing at the circumference of the tread, there are chances of a problem with steering suspension or brakes. By using a tool called quarter, measure the tread depth, which should be 1/16 inch. Check the sidewalls to see if there are any scuffing cracks or bulges on the tire.

To change a flat tire, you need a Jack, lug wrench, and a fully inflated spare tire. Ensure that these are available in the car.

To balance car tires, you have to adopt a process of equalizing the weight of the combined tire and wheel assembly, to make them spin smoothly at high speed. The process involves placing the wheel assembly on a balancing machine that centers the wheel and spins it for determining where the weights should go.


Check the floor where the car is usually parked. If you find marks of old oil, transmission fluid or coolants, you can sense problems. You can take the car to an independent mechanic, who can make a thorough inspection of the interior, exterior and under the vehicle and give his unbiased opinion about the condition of the car.