4 Things to look for: A Checklist for Used Car Buyers

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


, - June 21, 2018

Whether you’re looking for a used car from a dealer or private party, it’s good to have a checklist of things to look for. You don’t want an unreliable used vehicle, and by inspecting a car closely, you can usually determine if the vehicle you want is reliable or a lemon.

A Buyer’s Guide to Inspecting a Used Car

It’s crucial you make sure the car you want to buy is ready to go. What it looks like on paper isn’t always the same as it is in person. Some tips for buying used vehicles are:

  1. Check the exterior – When you look at the car’s exterior, check for any noticeable signs of scratches, dents, and rust. You should also check the vehicle’s tires while inspecting the body. Check for significant wear and tear such as cracks or scuffs, check the tread depth by using a penny, and if the tires are all the same brand. Finally, before you head inside the car, open all the doors and close them – as well as the trunk.
  2. Check the interior – When inside the vehicle, make sure you take a good whiff to see if there are any pungent odors. Then, try every single button and control to make sure everything works properly. This includes the lights, stereo, seats, and windows to name a few. Finally, look for any damage such as tears in the upholstery or stains on the seats, headliner, and floor.
  3. Test drive – Once you’ve checked things out, it’s time for a test drive. Make sure you note any odd sounds or vibrations the car makes, how much noise gets into the cabin, how it rides, and how the transmission shifts on the road and when you put it in park. If the vehicle doesn’t feel safe when you’re driving it, don’t buy it.
  4. Mechanic’s inspection – The last crucial step to take is to have a trusted mechanic inspect the car and review any maintenance records. Even if everything looks good after going through steps one to three, a mechanic can take a more in-depth look at the vehicle and spot any hidden problems, while a body specialist can check the frame alignment. Then, if the car looks good and you’re ready to purchase it, make sure the title and registration match the vehicle as well as where or whom you’re buying it from. Watch out for people attempting to curbstone – someone who poses as a private seller, but is really a used car dealer – as they could give you the wrong information about the vehicle.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when purchasing a used car. Don’t skip any steps in the checklist. You’ll want to make sure the car is 100 percent ready to drive off the lot and can be relied on in the future.

Ready to Buy Used?

Make sure you thoroughly inspect a vehicle before you sign any paperwork. You never know what you’ll be getting if you don’t run through the used car checklist.

At the same time, if you’re looking for a used car, but worry bad credit might stop you, let CarsDirect help. We work with a nationwide network of dealers that have lenders specializing in bad credit, no credit, bankruptcy, and even repossession. Take the first step toward rebuilding your credit and getting the car you need by filling out our auto loan request form today.

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


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