14 Most Important Things to Check Before Buying a Used Car

When someone starts looking to buy a second-hand car, what are the things to check before buying a used car from a dealer? and what to check for when buying a used car from a private owner? These are the two most obvious questions that always plagues the buyer.

Are you also thinking of buying a car but can’t afford to carry out all those heavy expenses?

Well, there’s no need to be sad, you can easily opt for a used car which also known as a second-hand car. These days used cars are in big buzz. But whenever this option hits, you often fall in the dilemma that whether it’s safe and worthy to buy a used car.

things to check before buying a used car
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and images. I earn advertising/referral fees if you make a purchase by clicking them. There is no extra cost to you. See our full disclosure here. )

That’s why we did quite a bit of research on all the things to check when buying a used car and we are here to help you in knowing how to buy a used car safely and smartly.

You might also like: 12 Most Essential Tips for First-Time Car Buyers

14 Most Essential Things to Check Before Buying a Used Car

In our previous guide, we talked in detail about the most essential things to consider when buying your first car and today we are going to get familiar with a comprehensive checklist to buying a used car which will guide you regarding all the measures that one must grasp before buying a second-hand car.

So now, without further ado let’s have a look at the list of top 14 things to check before buying a used car from a private owner or a dealer. Here we go:

Check Vehicle History

This is something that has to be given the topmost priority before buying a second-hand car. Always make sure that you get abundant information regarding the used car from the current owner itself.

A famously known paid service called CARFAX gives you brief information about whether the car has ever been in an accident, are there any claims on it and much more. All these kinds of vehicle history reports and information are gathered by using running VIN (vehicle identification number).

Knowing the history of a vehicle is a must for safe purchase and to avoid getting stuck in any kind of unusual situation.

Check the Car’s Condition

Another essential that one must go through when buying a second-hand car is the car’s external and internal condition. Despite being a used car, the vehicle that you’re planning to buy should be in proper running condition, making every penny worth it.

Take a test drive of the used car to go through all major systems including steering, engine, cooling, wheels, etc. And don’t forget to get the second-hand car thoroughly checked by a trusted mechanic.

These checks will help you in the future to plan for unavoidable repair and maintenance which may apparently get included in your budget.

Check the Registration Certificate (RC)

How to know if the seller is the real owner of the car? Is the car being sold for the first time or second time? Before buying a second car these questions comes naturally to anyone’s mind.

Well, all these things can be easily checked with the help of Owner Serial Number present in the RC that indicates the number of times the car has been sold till now.

Just you will have to fill out and submit Form 29 and Form 30 issued by the RTO. But while doing this, don’t forget to get the form signed by both you and the previous owner.

In addition to all these things, make sure that the previous owner had paid all dues, including road tax. Also, go through Valid Pollution Under Certificate (PUC) and Bi-fuel certification if the car is LPG/CNG fitted.

Checking the car’s registration certificate is a very important thing to do for any buyer and that’s why we mentioned it at the top of the list of things to check before buying a used car.

Check Car Insurance Validity

We have personally noticed it and this is something most of the people give the least importance but it is necessary to check the existing insurance papers of the second-hand car you’re planning to buy.

But if the question arises in your mind, why is it necessary to check car insurance validity? Then the simple answer to this question is that these checks will help you to identify if the car has had accidents in the past or if it encountered any insurance-related issues.

So whenever you buy a second-hand car, make sure that you transfer the seller’s car insurance policy in your name or buy a new insurance policy. Neglecting this may lead to your insurance claim being rejected in any case of a mishap or accident.

Check the Tires of the Car

Tires are also one of the fundamental elements of cars that must be checked before buying a used car. Also, a very important measure here that must be kept in mind is the date of manufacturing of the tires, and see whether the tire is worn evenly.

Make a note that the dimension must match the dimension given by the manufacturer of the car. Due to the poor alignment tires, you often get to see uneven treads or extra wear on tires, which somehow indicates issues in steering, frames, and suspension.

Check the Mileage of the Car

Thinking of buying a second-hand car? But confused about how to check its mileage. To figure out if the car you’re thinking of buying has high mileage or low mileage simply divide the number on the odometer by the vehicle’s age.

Mileage indicates a very valuable piece of information about the way the car was used in the past. A car with high mileage often have more tear and wear on its mechanical components.

If a car produced a few short years ago indicates a high mileage number that means it was used vigorously and intensively which is not desirable by the buyers.

Check the Air-Conditioning System

Who doesn’t like to beat the heat? Specially, during summers. I guess most of us, right? Before buying a used car, it must be check that the air-conditioning units are working smoothly, does it still have coolant.

Also, do check whether the compressor is leaking or there is a crack from the earlier itself, and the new one may have an extravaganza price tag. However, it can also be fixed by repairing but god knows how many days it would last.

In any case, you shouldn’t forget to search for the sticker found on the condenser of the air-conditioning unit which informs about the type of coolant that has been used. According to WikiHow R134 is the most preferable.

Check the Scratches and Paint Job

It’s a famous saying “the first impression is the last impression”. This term gets applied when you decide to buy a second-hand car. The desire to buy a car will automatically decrease as soon as you view a car with a lot of scratches, folds, and dents which are still visible even though the dust film deposited on the car.

If you find a car which preferably clean and have just a couple of micro-scratches that can be fixed effortlessly in the future, then there is no need to stress about it. Although you have invested some fund to turn out your second-hand car into the lustrous brand new one!

Always, keep an eye out for any rusty spot or paint chip while inspecting the car both externally and internally. Don’t let the localized rust patch become a deal-breaker as it can be fixed easily in the future.

Check the Trunk of Car

I know…..I know, you are feeling strange after seeing the headline “check the trunk of the car” in this comprehensive list of what to check for when buying a used car from a dealer or a private owner. But you should be aware that the trunk of the car is another valuable component that must be kept in mind while buying a used car.

According to numerous car experts, the trunk of the car indicates the utility of the vehicle as well as gives a hint of the way the owner has treated it.

Also, make sure to check the spare tire placed under the trunk inside the floor should not be damaged. If it is, then the has surely suffered an accident in the past.

Any openings for water and rust must also be checked as these may result in holes and cracks that will unequivocally need repair. If there are havocs present in the car, make a guesstimated cost before making the final decision.

Check the Condition of the Car Seats

Everyone loves comfortable and cozy rides, don’t you? For which you need good competent car seats. Before thinking of buying a used car always make sure to check the interior of the car.

Majorly the seats of the car that give you a hint of how the car was treated by the previous owner. If you find the car seat full of dust dirt and stain this indicates that the former owner did not take care of the care properly. And in the future, it can turn into a real problematic situation for you.

If the vehicle included alignment memory, heated seats or simple electrical alignment then check them without any fail to ensure whether they are still working properly or not.

Also, don’t forget to check the material used in the car seats to figure out whether there will be a need to quickly change them in the future.

Check the all the Lights of Vehicle

This comprehensive checklist for buying a used car also includes the proper inspection of the car’s lights. The lights are also one of the crucial components that must be checked if you decide to buy a second-hand car.

Find out whether the signal lights, the emergency lights, all the headlights, and taillights are in good working condition or not. Also, make sure that all the interior led light bulbs are all right and not burned.

If the car is provided with xenon lights, it should be checked when the night arrives to inspect whether there is a color difference between both the headlights. However, when the intensity of a xenon lights decreases it needs to be changed.

But if and so it is already changed with another type of bulb, there are chances of color difference which is not pleasing for most of the car buyers.

In addition to the inspection of car lightings, one must also check other electrical components of the car such as radio, CD or other music installation, the back-parking camera, parking sensors.

Proper checkups of such things are very essential, and you must check these things thoroughly before buying a second-hand car.

Check the Engine Leaks or Corrosion

When someone asks, what to check for when buying a used car? Checking the car engine is an obvious answer because the engine is the heart of a vehicle. We all can agree with it, right?

Undoubtedly, the engine is the most important component of any vehicle so as your car. Without engine your vehicle it just a big piece of metal and nothing else. The car cannot meet its purpose if the engine does not work properly.

According to the automotive industry experts, a gasket leak is a probable cause due to which dark brown stains on the engine blocks are visible. Which may only lead to expensive repairs. Make sure to inspect whether the engine has been recently cleaned having no signs of dust on the engine cover.

Beware this might be the sign that the owner is trying to hide something. In such a case it is strongly suggested to take the car to the nearest repair center for further inspection.

Also, do not forget to check the oil and transmission dipsticks for discoloration. The color of transmission fluid should be red or pink and that of oil should be light brown. These factors must have checked before buying a used car.

Check the Underbody Rust Damage

Before buying a second-hand car, every buyer should make an effort to take the car in the repairing center provided with elevators. As it will help to raise the car effortlessly to see the underbody and exhaust system properly. If you find black spots on the exhaust then this could be a sign of undetected leakage.

Also check the exhaust manually using a finger to see if there is greasy grime inside it, as this can indicate major issues of the second-hand car. While the engine is running if there is a white vapor formed which is not cold outside, then this is considered as a bad sign.

Once the vehicle is elevated the future owner can inspect the car frame to spot any signs of rust which could trigger an alarm of danger. In the process, don’t forget to raise the hood before buying a used car, as some of the problems of cars such as rust, dents or incident traces can be easily detected there.

For example, if the car had a frontal accident and the part was not replaced but only mended, then such type of repairs can be easily seen. If you find a lot of rust in the car that this indicates that the car has not been used for ages and the previous owner didn’t give any attentiveness on it.

Check the Clunking Noise When Turning and Going Over Bumps

Do you wanna go on a test drive? Yes, you must go. Before buying a second-hand car, take a long test drive of the car you are interested in. During the test drive, do check if there is any clunking noise or trepidation while the car makes a 90° turn.

Remember not to do this test drive on high speed but at a slower speed. While doing so also switch off all means of distraction such as radio and music system, so that you can hear everything clearly.

These generated sounds also indicate front directional problems like a joint that needs to be changed as soon as possible. It is very crucial to find out everything about a second-hand car before getting it in front of your house. Because every penny you spend on it should worth it.

Final Thoughts on Things to Check Before Buying a Used Car

When you plan on buying a new car or when you buy a new car, there is no need to undergo so many inspections and stress about all these things because in that case, all the things come brand new. But in the case of buying a second-hand car or a used vehicle, you should take every possible precaution and do all kinds of inspections at least twice.

We hope after reading this detailed checklist of 14 most important things to check before buying a used car or second-hand car, now you know exactly what to check for when buying a used car from a dealer or a private owner.

Top 10 Best Used Cars Under $15,000

And since now you are well familiar with the process to buy a second-hand car safely and know all the essential things to check when buying a used car, so we have compiled a list of the best-used cars under $15,000 for you. Here we go:

  • 2018 Nissan Versa S Sedan
  • 2014 Hyundai Sonata
  • 2014 – 2018 Mazda 3
  • 2018 Chevrolet Spark
  • 2011 Nissan Maxima
  • 2012 Honda Odyssey
  • 2014 – 2018 Toyota Corolla
  • 2018 Kia Rio Sedan
  • 2011 Toyota Sienna
  • 2010 – 2014 Volkswagen GTI

If you liked our comprehensive list of the top 14 things to check before buying a used car then feel free to share it with your friends on social networking sites so that they can get benefited from it too whenever they plan on buying a second-hand car.

You may also be interested in checking out:

About Amy Cuban

I am an automotive enthusiast who loves to be around cars. I enjoy working on cars in my spare time and love anything related to automobiles. I like using different types of car accessories, car gadgets, and innovative car care products.

1 thought on “14 Most Important Things to Check Before Buying a Used Car”

  1. Thank you very much, with this article I have much clearer what to look at when I go to buy my next car.

    Even having notions of mechanics, In addition to checking exterior, interior and engine Condition, I think it’s very important to take into account other aspects, such as the VIN, the revisions and the car’s papers. And it’s very important to take a test drive.

    Thank you for this article, very nice!!


Leave a Comment