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Vehicle Inspection Checklist: Pre-purchase / Used Car Inspection Checklist

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Use this checklist when buying a used vehicle to help make sure you're getting a good deal and a reliable car.

Woman inspecting a vehicle
Yellow notepad with pen svg icon Lesson Notes:
  • Walk away if the seller objects to your inspection.
  • Don't feel rushed while inspecting.
  • Try to get a mechanic to assess checklist results.
  • Use any flaws against the asking price.

Exterior Checklist

□ Windshield free of cracks

□ Body panel colors match

□ Magnet adheres to all steel body panels

□ Fresh paint job (if yes, it could be to conceal rust)

□ Seams where the trunk and hood close are properly aligned

□ Seams where doors and fenders meet are properly aligned

□ Free of body scratches

□ Free of body dents

□ Windshields wipers and blades fully functional

□ Headlights and directional lights intact and fully functional

Tires Checklist

□ Tires are a reputable brand name (Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear)

□ Tires are all of the same make

□ Tires are of free of any cuts, bubbles or cracks

□ Tread worn evenly (uneven wear indicates alignment and suspension problems)

□ Spare tire, jack and lug wrench on car and fully functional

□ Spare tire inflated

Engine Checklist

□ Free of fluid or oil leaks

□ Oil filler neck not coated with thick, black deposits

□ Battery terminals free of corrosion

□ Oil dip stick free of dark, black oil

□ Free of odors while engine is running

□ Exhaust pipe emissions are neither blue (indicates engine burns oil) or black

(indicate excessive oil consumption)

Suspension Checklist

□ Vehicle rests levelly

□ When bouncing the vehicle's corners, no creaking noises are made

□ All corners respond the same when bouncing

Interior Checklist

□ Seats unworn and free of cracks

□ All doors open and close freely

□ Trunk opens and closes freely

□ Lacks a heavy scent of air freshener (may indicate something is being concealed)

□ All gauges work

□ No dashboard warning lights remain illuminated

□ Stereo works

□ Heater works

□ Air conditioner works

□ Windshield wipers work

□ Windshield wiper fluid dispenses properly

□ All seats equipped with functional seat belts

□ All seats adjust properly

□ Power windows operate properly

□ Sunroof opens and closes properly (if applicable)

□ Car alarm works (if applicable)

□ Trunk and driver-side door lock and unlock with key

□ Hazard lights function properly

□ Headlights, including brights, work properly

Frame Checklist

□ Chassis is neither bent nor cracked

□ No signs of crumpling or straightening inside the trunk

□ Frame holes just inside outer edge clean and free of scratches

Automatic Transmission Checklist

□ Transmission fluid looks clean, not dirty or gritty (no indicates possible internal

transmission problem)

□ Transmission neither slips nor delays when driving

Manual Transmission Checklist

□ Each gear shifts smoothly

□ No grinding noises when in reverse

Brakes Checklist

□ Vehicle steers straight and does not pull to one side when applying brakes

□ Parking brake engages and disengages freely

□ No grinding noises when applying

□ Wheels do not lock when applying antilock brakes (if applicable)

Steering Checklist

□ Vehicle does not drift to one side without prodding

□ Vehicle is stable; no shaking or vibrating

□ No resistance in the steering wheel when turning

□ No clicking or clunking when turning

Miscellaneous Checklist

□ Car manual located in the glove compartment

□ Instructions included for any accessories

□ Service and repair records available

□ Owner has title

Want a copy of the checklist?

Download the PDF.

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