Buying a used car is a great way to get a vehicle for work or leisure at an affordable price. However, it is important to know what to look for in a used car before finalizing the deal. There are big things to keep an eye out for that are easy to remember. However, plenty of mundane items are easily overlooked. Therefore, we have put together a short checklist for buying a used car with a mechanic’s eye.

A Mechanic’s Used Car Buying Checklist

The best way to be prepared when you go to the car lot is by printing out a checklist to take with you during the inspection. If you plan to look at several cars, you can print multiple lists to help you stay organized. Other tools to help with your inspection are:

  • OBD2 scan tool
  • Magnets to unearth bodywork
  • Rag to check oil levels
  • Pen flashlight
  • Jack prop & stand
  • Bluetooth phone & AUX cable

If you are the one buying the car or if you have been hired to inspect the car on behalf of a buyer, these tools paired with a checklist will come in handy. You should also ask critical questions so that a clear picture of the vehicle history is created.

Used Car Buying Checklist

Exterior Inspection

There are a few things to look for on the exterior of the car. This is a list of critical items that many people tend to overlook:

  1. Look for the service history and gaps in the service history.
  2. Check the mileage of the car.
  3. Inspect the car title for salvage.
  4. Inspect the car tires and rims for curb damage.
  5. Check the windshield for cracks, scratches, or other damage.
  6. Ensure the hood and trunk are aligned when closed.
  7. Confirm the presence of a spare tire.
  8. Inspect all locks to ensure they are serviceable.
  9. Check directional lights, headlights, hazard lights, brake & rear lights for proper function.
  10. Look for body panel colors that are mismatched.
  11. Check each panel with a magnet to unearth concealed repairs.
  12. Inspect the fenders and body for scratches and dents.

Interior Inspection

The Interior inspection is also very important, some things that you should check for are:

  1. Proper car alarm functionality.
  2. Interior seats are free from cracks, holes, and mold.
  3. Key fob operation.
  4. Instrument panels and gauges operate properly.
  5. When the car starts, the warning lights should not stay on.
  6. The dash & entertainment console should operate properly.
  7. Proper A/C operation even when sitting in the sun.
  8. Proper heater and defrost functionality.
  9. Wipers do not scratch the windshield or leave a trail of water.
  10. Inspect the window and sunshade operation.

Under the Hood Inspection

Getting under the hood is also vital, some essentials to check are:

  1. Look for oil leaks or fluid leaks on the engine block
  2. Check for black tar in the oil filler neck.
  3. Inspect the battery and enclosure for corrosion.
  4. Observe the odors from the engine while the car runs.
  5. Check the exhaust pipe for clear emissions and water leaks.
  6. Inspect the transmission and alignment.
  7. Check the AT/MT performance.
  8. Inspect the steering and brake system performance.

Checking these items in addition to your typical checklist will ensure that the used car is in the best possible condition prior to purchase.

Additional Reading: How to Negotiate to Buy a Used Car

Dave & Rays Automotive Repair Shop in Omaha, NE

Our team has learned one thing: automotive problems are as varied and unique as the customers who bring them to us. Fortunately, our decades of experience in auto service and repair also mean that our skilled network of professionals is ready to accommodate an impressive scope of automotive issues. Contact us today.

Recent Articles