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Checklist for Buying a Used Car


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For many people, buying a used car is a harrowing experience. Although buying a used car can mean a much better deal in terms of price and value, it's nerve-wracking because the car may or may not be what you think it is when you buy it. You have little guarantee if it isn't and limited recourse as well.

Here is a simple checklist you can print out and take with you to use when looking over a used car you may purchase. More details on these items can be found in several of the articles already published here at, referenced below.

  1. Ask yourself what you need the car for and what you expect out of the car. Then decide what type of car best suits your needs and begin shopping using that as your guideline.
  2. What is the mileage of the vehicle you're considering and how many miles per year doesthat equate to? (Total miles on odometer / age of vehicle)
  3. How many owners has the car had?
  4. Does it have a complete maintenance history?
  5. Why is it being sold (or why was it traded in)?
  6. Is the engine compartment relatively clean, was the oil recently changed (new), and does the car appear in good mechanical order?
  7. Does the body of the car have ripples, mismatched paint, rust, or other signs of repair or replacement due to an accident?
  8. If so, how extensive was that accident?
  9. Do they have a Carfax report for the vehicle and does the report and car's VIN match?
  10. Can you test drive the vehicle and will they allow you to take it to your own mechanic for a once-over?
  11. Check the oil again after your test drive. Is it murky or suddenly dirty?
  12. If the vehicle was recently smog or safety tested, can you see the results of those tests?
  13. If buying from a dealership, ask for the mechanic's pre-certification inspection sheet to see what was checked and what was replaced.
  14. Does the car and the price tag fit your budget?

After all of that, you should also go through a few things after you've purchased the car to be sure it's sound.

For reference, you should also read these articles:
What To Look For When Buying a Used Car
What To Ask When Buying a Used Car
Buying a Used Car From a Private Party
Buying A Used Car From a Dealer
Buying a Used Car Advice