Used Car Buying Checklist

Everyone knows someone who has bought a used car that turned out to be a lemon or a very bad purchase. Although there is some legal recourse that can be taken in these situations, it is always best to ensure that the car is in good running condition and that you know what you are getting before buying.

Have a checklist handy so that you can be sure to inspect and examine all the aspects, features and some additional items on the car. Your checklist simply must include the following:

  1. New Car Factors And Features

Treat the used car like a new car and assess factors such as your comfort behind the steering wheel, ease of driving and overall satisfaction with the vehicle. You don’t want to purchase a car that you will be unhappy or uncomfortable driving.

  1. Cost Comparison

Go online or check auto trader magazines to determine the going price for a specific make, year and model of car. This will ensure that the seller is not charging way over the actual value of the car. Keep in mind that there are factors other than the book value that will influence the price such as mileage, overall condition and whether the car has been in an accident or had any major parts replaced.

  1. Documentation

The following documentation is essential, and you should check these before wasting your time inspecting the car:

  • Ask for the title and ensure that the name of the seller is the same as the title holder as well as the registration and VIN number which can be found on the engine.
  • Make sure that the car is not listed as salvaged which means that it has been written off. NEVER buy a car that has been listed salvaged.
  • Check that the car registration and licensing is up to date.
  • Inspect the maintenance and service logbook to ensure that car has been regularly serviced and check the parts that have been replaced.
  • Ask for receipts, warranties or guarantees that may still be valid for new replacement parts.
  1. Exterior And Interior Inspection

When inspecting the exterior of the car, look for the following:

  • Dings or scratches, misaligned panels or paintwork or any other inconsistencies that could detract from the appearance and therefore the value. These could also be signs that the car has been in an accident.
  • Look for any rust or corrosion.
  • Check the tire tread and pressure as well as both the tires and the rims for damage.
  • Make sure that the spare wheel is in place and good condition as well as jack, wheel spanner and any other requirements are present.
  • Inspect windows for cracks as well as windscreen wipers.
  • Make sure that all the Diode Dynamics – Demon Eye Lighting and indicators are functioning correctly.

Interior checks should include:

  • Inspect the upholstery, dash and other coverings for rips, stains and regular wear and tear.
  • Make sure that all door handles, locks, window operations, seat adjusters, seatbelts, interior lights, etc., are present and functional.
  • Check all other electronics, features and working parts such as the radio, clock, dashboard readouts, etc.

Different cars will have different features to check so make sure that your checklist is specific to the make and model you are inspecting.

  1. The Test Drive

The test drive is probably the most important parts of a used car inspection and is where you are most likely to discover issues or problems with the car early on. Listen for any strange noises like rattling or clanging that doesn’t belong. Look for any loose or non-functional parts. Also smell for any unusual odors like burning or a fishy, foul odor which could be as a result of a malfunctioning clutch.

Don’t be afraid to push the vehicle and test drive it in an area where you can exceed the speed limit slightly. Perform an emergency stop and take the vehicle on an uneven road surface with lots of bends and curves to evaluate suspension. Remember to also assess your comfort and overall driving experience throughout the test drive.

  1. The Engine

This is where things get a little more complicated as very few people actually know what to look for in a used car engine inspection. If you have zero knowledge, it is recommended to hire a reputable car mechanic to check the engine and other areas of the vehicle before making a purchase. Not only can they identify areas that are problematic but could point out issues that could arise in the near future. It may also be a good idea to get the mechanic to test drive the car.

If you do have some knowledge of car engines, check the following:

  • Oil, water, battery water and other fluid levels.
  • Wiring that is loose, damaged or deteriorating.
  • The cambelt for wear and tear.
  • Any other areas that may stick out to a knowledgeable eye.
  1. The Sales Agreement

This is a legally binding contract between the buyer and the seller that basically states that the seller will receive $xxx from the buyer and that the buyer will receive the car in return. However, the sales agreement should list a few additional terms and conditions.

  • The date upon which payment is due in full and ownership will pass to the buyer.
  • That the title deed will pass to the buyer.
  • That the contract becomes null and void should any major issues arise with the vehicle within a set period of time and the money paid for the car returned to the buyer immediately upon return of the vehicle.
  • Any other terms and conditions that may be deemed necessary by either the buyer or seller.

It is important to note that not all of the items on your used car buying checklist are necessarily deal breakers. For example, a cracked windshield can be fixed but it will give you some negotiating power in lowering the asking price.

  1. However, major problems or too many minor problems that could negatively affect your satisfaction with the vehicle should stop you from buying the vehicle.