Checklist for Inspecting a Used Car on Your Own


May 05th, 2021

Checklist for Inspecting a Used Car on Your Own

By now, many people understand that there’s plenty of value to be had in buying a used car. Not only will you save a significant amount of money, but you’ll also be able to enjoy a vehicle for the rest of its natural life. Still, it’s a good idea to learn how to inspect a used car before buying and driving it away.

Here's how you do a pre-purchase inspection on a used vehicle: Start by making your inspection checklist. The checklist categories can include the engine and transmission, tyres and suspension, steering and brakes, and interior and comfort features. 

Of course, be sure to list down any specific items that relate to your personal preferences. In the following sections, we'll explore all the items that should be on your checklist for inspecting a used car on your own. When you know what to include in your inspection checklist, you'll be able to shop for a used car with much more confidence and peace of mind.

Let’s see what you should add to that list.

Do Dealerships Inspect Used Cars?

Some people may wonder why they'd need to perform their own used car inspection, and rightfully so. After all, doesn't the used car dealership inspect the used cars they put up for sale?

The answer is yes, of course, they do. Reputable used car dealerships would undoubtedly have their stringent policies to inspect and test a vehicle before putting it up for sale. After all, it would be bad for their reputation and business to sell a faulty used car to customers.

So, Why Should You Do A Used Car Inspection On Your Own?

Still, there are several reasons why you should learn the ropes of inspecting a used car.

First and foremost, the dealers may have missed certain things during their inspection and testing. Most reputable used car dealerships are trustworthy and not out there to cheat you. But the people who inspect those vehicles are only human, and they're bound to miss a thing or two.

Besides that, nothing beats first-hand knowledge when it comes to trusting the car you’re buying. That’s especially true if you decide to buy a used car from a private seller who may or may not be telling you the whole story about the car’s health.

How to Do a Pre-Purchase Inspection on a Used Car

So let's look at the sections you should include in your personal used car inspection checklist. As you'll see, inspections are much more manageable when you group crucial parts of the car. That way, your inspection will be organised and systematic, and you won't be checking parts at random.

Engine and Transmission

The first section you should check is the engine and transmission. Here’s what you’re looking for:

  • No fluid or oil leaks
  • Check the battery terminals to ensure there’s no corrosion
  • The engine starts up and revs with no problems or unusual noises
  • For auto/manual transmission, make sure that switching gears happen smoothly
  • Plus, there should be no grinding noises when switching to reverse 

Tyres and Suspension

  • The vehicle should sit perfectly level when there are no people or cargo in the car
  • There are no creaking noises when you get in the car and bounce around a little bit
  • When bouncing, all four sides of the car’s suspension react equally
  • All tyres are from a reputable brand, and they all match
  • Spare tyre(s) and equipment (like a car jack and lug wrench) are available and usable

Steering and Brakes

  • The car doesn’t pull to one side or another when you test drive it
  • The brake pedal doesn’t shake when you put your foot down on it
  • No noises when you turn the wheel while driving (e.g. creaking, clicking, etc.)
  • You can turn the wheel effortlessly (i.e. power-steering works correctly)
  • The parking brake can be engaged and disengaged easily without any noises

Interior and Comfort

  • Ensure that all doors can open and close, allowing you to enter and exit the vehicle freely
  • Check that all the in-car systems work correctly
  • Inspect the heater and air-conditioner, and test them at all settings (low, medium, high, multiple-zone climate control, etc.)
  • Check that the seats are adjustable and the seatbelts can be used

Personal Preferences

You should also have a section devoted to specific qualities you prefer in your vehicle on your used car inspection checklist. After all, you're spending your hard-earned money on this car, so you should make sure that you're getting exactly what you've been searching for.

Some examples of this might include a specific type of interior trim or driver-assist feature that you consider crucial for your purchasing decision.

Additional Items

Another section of your checklist should include additional items that you may or may not find inside the vehicle itself. For example, you might want to see whether or not the car has a clear maintenance record that comes along with it.

Besides that, your checklist could also consider the user manuals for any accessories inside the car. For example, you might want to check for a guide to the in-car entertainment system so you won’t have to figure out by yourself how to use it later.

Lastly, your inspection checklist should include all other essential documents like the car’s registration and more.

What to Bring Along When Doing a Used Car Inspection

There are a few optional items that you can bring along to your used car inspection. Not only will they make it easier for you to perform the inspection, but they might also signal to the buyer that you’re serious about making sure the car is right for you.

For example, you could bring a flashlight with you when you check under the hood or the car's body. Of course, a printed copy of the inspection checklist and a couple of pens will also be handy.

Lastly, and this is entirely optional, you could bring a clipboard. Sure, that might seem a little over-the-top at first. But when you’re busy going around a car inspecting it section by section, you’ll be glad you have a flat surface on which you can place your checklist.

Check Out for More!

To learn more about how to inspect a used car and many other issues relevant to car buyers, check out the blog at There, you’ll discover frequent updates that’ll help you make better car-buying decisions!

It’s also a useful site for connecting to sellers of hard-to-find car parts. You just don’t know how important this resource is until you need an auto part for an old model or perhaps a discontinued car. So what are you waiting for? Bookmark us for future reference, or better yet, try sending us a request for car parts now!

By Ray Hasbollah