Used Car Buyers Checklist (+Important Notes For Buying Used Cars)

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Pittalks

In this article, I’ll be covering a few important considerations that you’ll need when in the market for a used car. Afterward, I’ll be including a used car buyers checklist that you can print out and take with you. So lets get rolling!

If you’re in a hurry, go ahead and download the used car buyers checklist and get to it!

Things To Consider When Buying a Used Car

In my experience, buying a used car is safe – more often than not; however, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of a few lemons in my day. This is why, in the section below, I’m going to highlight a few important considerations to protect yourself both physically and financially.

Dealership or Private Seller

When purchasing a used car, one of the first decisions you’ll face is whether to buy from a dealership or a private seller. Each option comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. Dealerships often offer a wider selection of cars, certified pre-owned options, and may provide warranties. On the other hand, private sellers might offer lower prices and more room for negotiation. Weigh the pros and cons of both choices to find the best fit for your needs and budget.

Is the Dealership Reputable?

If you decide to go with a dealership, it’s crucial to ensure their reputation is trustworthy. Look for reviews and testimonials from previous customers to gauge their satisfaction and experiences. A reputable dealership will be transparent about the car’s condition, history, and pricing, providing you with confidence in your purchase.

In my personal experience, the dealership that you purchase from often plays a large role in the condition and history of the vehicle. When I lived in New Jersey, Schumacher Used Vehicles was my dealer of choice. If you’re in the tri-state area, I definitely suggest contacting them before looking elsewhere.

Where Did You Contact The Seller?

In today’s digital age, there are numerous platforms to find used cars, such as online marketplaces, classified ads, and social media groups. While these platforms offer convenience, they also come with risks. Be cautious of potential scams, misleading information, or deals that seem too good to be true. Stick to well-known and reputable platforms, and never hesitate to ask for additional details or request an in-person meeting to inspect the car thoroughly.

Can You Evaluate The Individual Selling The Car?

When buying from a private seller, evaluating the individual is as important as assessing the car itself. Ask questions about their ownership history, reason for selling, and how they maintained the vehicle. Trust your instincts during your interactions. If anything raises concerns or feels suspicious, it might be best to consider other options. Remember, your safety and peace of mind are paramount in the used car buying process.

Used Car Buyers Checklist

I’m going to leave a quick list of things I like to check, but be sure to download the full printout before you leave to check out the car. Otherwise, check out this reference video if you’re a visual learner like me!

  1. Vehicle Information
    • Note down the vehicle make, model, and year to verify the details against the seller’s claims.
    • Check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for any discrepancies and obtain a vehicle history report for additional insights.
    • Verify the odometer reading to ensure it’s accurate and hasn’t been tampered with.
    • Check the title status to ensure it’s clean and not marked as salvage or rebuilt.
  2. Exterior Inspection
    • Inspect the body for any signs of damage, such as dents, scratches, rust, or paint issues.
    • Check the tire tread depth and wear, ensuring they have even wear and sufficient tread for safe driving.
    • Evaluate the suspension and alignment, looking for any signs of accidents or uneven tire wear.
    • Test all lights and signals to ensure they are functioning properly.
  3. Interior Inspection
    • Check the condition of the seats for tears, stains, or unusual odors.
    • Inspect the dashboard and controls to ensure all gauges and buttons work properly.
    • Test the air conditioning and heating systems to ensure they provide adequate cooling and heating.
    • Check the sound system and other electronics for proper functioning.
  4. Mechanical Inspection
    • Carefully examine the engine for any visible issues and listen for unusual noises during operation.
    • Test the transmission for smooth shifting and responsiveness.
    • Evaluate the braking system’s performance and the functionality of the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).
    • Check the steering for any play or stiffness and assess the alignment.
  5. Under the Hood
    • Check the fluid levels and condition, including oil, coolant, brake fluid, and others.
    • Assess the battery’s health to ensure it’s in good working condition.
    • Inspect the belts and hoses for signs of wear or cracking.
  6. Test Drive
    • During the test drive, assess the engine’s performance, acceleration, and idle stability.
    • Test the transmission for smooth shifting and responsiveness during various driving conditions.
    • Evaluate the steering and handling for responsiveness and stability.
    • Check the braking performance and feel, ensuring they provide sufficient stopping power.
    • Evaluate the suspension and ride comfort over different road surfaces.
  7. Documentation
    • Obtain a comprehensive vehicle history report to understand the car’s past ownership and any reported incidents.
    • Check for maintenance records to ensure the car has been regularly serviced and repaired.
    • Ensure all legal paperwork, including the bill of sale and title, is in order.
  8. Professional Inspection
    • Consider getting a third-party mechanic to inspect the car for a professional opinion on its overall condition.
  9. Negotiation and Price
    • Conduct market research to determine the fair price for the specific make and model.
    • Use the pre-purchase inspection results as a negotiation tool to discuss any issues found.
  10. Final Check
    • Before making a decision, recheck everything to confirm the car’s condition meets your expectations and requirements.

1. Should I buy from a dealership or a private seller?

It depends on your preferences. Dealerships offer more options, warranties, and financing. Private sellers may have lower prices and room for negotiation. Consider the car’s condition, your budget, and desired services.

2. How can I verify a dealership’s reputation?

Read customer reviews and testimonials online. Check their history, certifications, and affiliations. A reputable dealership will willingly provide this information.

3. What precautions should I take when buying from a private seller online?

Use reputable platforms. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true. Ask for detailed car information and maintenance records. Inspect the car in person, take it for a test drive, and meet the seller in a safe location. Trust your instincts and prioritize your safety.

Leave a Comment