Your Used Car Buying Checklist

Unsure what to look for when buying a used car? We’ve compiled this car buying checklist and mechanic inspection guide just for you. This used car buying checklist is perfect for the do-it-yourself buyer. It acts as a reminder for many of the problem areas of used cars. Plus, the inspection checklist acts as your guide to make sure your mechanic gives the vehicle a thorough inspection.

Buyer's Checklist

During the Test Drive

1. Test Drive the vehicle when the entire is cold. (Does it hesitate to start? Hesitate to accelerate?)

2. Test Drive the vehicle at slow and highway speeds.

3. Test Drive with tight turns, in reverse, going up steep hills, and down steep hills.

4. Test Drive the vehicle without music in order to listen for unusual mechanical noises.

5. Does the steering pull or shake while you are driving?

6. Do the brakes jerk or vibrate when you slow down?

7. Does it take a long time for the vehicle to shift gears when driving? Does it slip out of gear?

8. Emergency Brake (Does it hold on a hill? Does it release easily?)

9. Does the air conditioner provide cool air?

10. Does the heater provide heat? How long does it take to provide heat?

11. Does the cruise control work properly?

Before/After the Test Drive

1. Are there leak spots where the vehicle was parked? (on the driveway, in the garage, or on the car lot)

2. Is the Brake Pedal worn? (indicator of excessive use)

3. Does the driver's seat appear worn? (indicator of excessive use)

4. Interior Water Spots/Mold/Mildew (indicator of leaks: windows, sunroofs, convertible tops) Even better, take it for a car wash and see for yourself if it has leaks - before you buy it.

5. Are there interior stains that may indicate poor maintenence, leaks, or flood damage? (upholstery, carpet, under floor mats, floor mats, and truck/cargo areas)

6. Are their dings, dents, paint chips, or signs of a sloppy paint job?

7. Are the tires new or will they need to be replaced soon?

8. Do all the VINs (vehicle identification number) match each other? (on the dash, doors, trunk, under the hood, etc.) They should all match. If they don't, the vehicle may have been rebuilt or even stolen. Compare to your AutoCheck® Report too.

9. Do all interior lights operate?

10. Are there any cracks/chips in the windshield?

11. Are all seatbelts functioning properly?

12. Does the radio, satellite radio, CD, MP3, and/or cassette function properly?

13. Do the speakers crackle when the radio is playing?

14. Does the DVD player function properly?

15. Does the owner have the maintenance records?

16. Does the owner have all the records for parts covered under product warranties? (new battery, rust proofing, fabric protection, etc.)

17. Does the owner have the Smog Check Records? (if applicable in your state)

18. Hybrids - Are the Carpool Lane Stickers affixed to the vehicle? (if applicable in your state)

19. Have there been any recalls on the vehicle? If so, have they been corrected and all parts replaced?

Mechanic's Checklist

Under the Hood or Under the Car

* Timing Belt (if applicable on model- may need to be replaced)

* Belts (AC, Power Steering, Alternator, etc.)

* Fluids (Do they need to be refilled? Are they clean? Does it appear that the owner maintained the car?)

* Motor Oil (Is there sludge build up?)

* Brake Pads

* Coolant

* Air Filter

* Spark Plugs

* Fuel Filter

* Ignition Wires

* Electrical Functioning

* Vehicle Frame (inspect for damage from accidents)

* Clutch (excessive use - may require to be replaced during lifetime)

* Rust

* Suspension

* Engine Noise

* Fire Damage

* Flood/Water Damage

Inside the Car

* Odometer (tampering)

* Instrument Panel (tampering)

* Emergency Brake

* Power Windows

* Power Locks

* Power Mirrors

* Windshield Wipers

* Defrost

Outside of the Car

* Tires

* Brake & Signal Lights

* Paint (look for new paint/slopping paint job to indicate repair work was recently performed)

* Does the paint match on the entire car?

* Leaks from the vehicle

* Exhaust

* Smog Check (records from current owner

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