How to Check a Used Car Before Buying

Simon Will on Feb 05, 2023 at 12:02 PM
How to Check a Used Car Before Buying

Buying an used car can become a nightmare, find out how to check a used car before you buy it. If you are interested in a car, I’m going to show you how to figure out if it’s worth the time and effort to call up the owner and go for a test drive. Now, the best part is anybody could inspect a used car; you don’t need to be a car expert. You just need to know what to look at and I’m going to show you all of that, so let’s begin. Now, when inspecting a used car, there are five main things to look at. 

  1. For Sale sign – It gives you a ton of information, such as mileage and price. Sometimes that price is so ridiculously high it’s not even worth your time because you’ll never negotiate it down to your buying point. 
  2. Body – You’re going to look for dents, scratches, rust and stuff like that. 
  3. Wheels and tires – The third thing we’re going to look at are the wheels and tires, because tires and wheels could get expensive. And it’s definitely important that your tires are in good shape. 
  4. Interior – We’re going to look for stuff like rips, tears and any options the car has. 
  5. Underneath the car – You’re going to look for rust, leaks, and any damage to the frame that indicates that it might have been in an accident. 
  6. Check the VIN – If the previous 5 steps are alright, now it’s the time to ask the owner for the car’s identification number (VIN). Every car has a unique code (17 digits) that is used to check it’s history.

For Sale Sign

The for sale sign is going to give you tons of information. You want to look at the year, the model, the version, asking price, phone. You should always call. If they don’t include a price on their for sale sign, then don’t even bother with the car. Would you shop in a store that doesn’t have prices on its items? No, so don’t waste your time. That’s one tip I’ve learned after looking at thousands of used cars. 


Now that we looked at the for sale sign, let’s go look at number two, the body of the car. You’re just going to be looking at the body work to see if there’s any damage. Unfortunately, even a little scratch could cost you a lot of money. That is why you have to figure out what you’re looking for. If blemishes like this don’t bother you, scratches, and dents can significantly drop the price of a car because people really focus on looks and that ends up working in your favor. Don’t think that fixing scratches and dents is easy. If there’s a scratch where you need to do some paint work, matching paint, especially on an older car, is difficult. Speaking about scratches, here’s a really useful tip when you’re looking at the body of the car, never inspect a wet car, whether it’s from rain or the car’s just been washed, water is going to hide scratches and dents. That is why it is important to look everywhere for any scratch, touch ups that don’t match the color of the car, holes, dents, and anything that needs repair. However, if they are not a deal breaker for you, then you can use them to knock down the price. 

Next thing to look at are the headlights. Make sure to check if they are hazed up because headlights can get expensive. Now’s also a good time to check out the glass, look for any cracks or chips, because glass could get expensive. While you’re inspecting the glass, be sure to look at different angles, because sometimes chips are hard to see. And since we’re looking at the glass, check the inspection sticker because that’ll give you an idea if the car needs to get inspected soon. Also, if the inspection is not up to date, there could be a problem with the car or the car’s been sitting for a while. You could also check out the brake rotors to see if the car’s been sitting. If you see rusty rotors, that could indicate that the car’s been sitting for a while. Cars are designed to be driven, so if they sit for a long time, they could develop problems that might not pop up on a test drive. 

Wheels and Tires

For the wheels and tires, we’re going to see how much life the tires have left. But before that, let’s make sure all four wheels and tires are the same and not damaged. So the first thing you want to do is make sure all the tires are the same in the front and in the rear. You could also have different brands, but be sure that the tires in the front match and the tires in the rear match with each other and they all are the same size. What you don’t want to see is a different tire on each corner next to make sure all your rims are the same. The last thing to check is how much life did the tires have left since new tires are expensive. To do this, look for the wear indicator band in the tread of the tire. When that band is touching the edge of the tread, that means you need new tires right away. Tires are very important for safety and they could get expensive. 


If you are done looking at the wheels and tires, take a look at the interior. The first thing I look at is to see if the car is an automatic or a manual. Then take a look at the seats and see if there are any rips or tears. Next, look at the steering wheel and see if it’s worn out. Also, check out the headliner to see if it’s sagging anywhere. 

Under the car

One more thing at which you should look is under the car. Start at the front of the car and look for any leaks over the engine. Go from the front of the car to the side and work your way around and be sure to check for rust. The other thing is make sure you look at the frame. Looking towards the center of the car, check again for anything unusual and for rust. After moving to the rear, look at the spare tire carrier, because if the car was in a significant rear end collision, it’s really hard for body shops to unbend this metal, so there will be obvious crumples or damage to this piece of metal if it was hit hard. Work your way around until you reach the front of the car again. 

carvertical vin decoder

VIN Check

Enter the vehicle VIN on and get the online report with the full history, technical details and maintenance. Getting a VIN report will give you a clear information about the car. Any faults founded in the car history report can be used as a reason to negotiate the price with the seller.

That covers the six main areas you should look at when checking a used car. Hopefully the article is helpful and it will be a good base for you to know what to look for when buying a used car.

About The Author

Simon Will

Simon Will

Car Buying Expert

Simon Will has 20 years experience in used cars markets. He helped thousands of people making the right choice when buying their car.
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