What to Check For When Buying a Used Car [Checklist - 2023]

Buying a car is always an exciting moment regardless of whether you are buying a used car or a new one - happiness is simply endless. However, the process of buying a used car is much different and not that simple as it is when buying a new car.

In fact, it is always good to have a checklist that you can go through when buying a used car. It can serve you as a reminder of everything you need to think about before buying a used car and make a smart decision.

Don't worry, you are already in the right place! in! First, we will answer the following question super quick and easy and then we will elaborate everything in more detail.

What should you check out when buying a used car?

Before buying a used car make sure to check out:

  • The technical and the interior condition of the car
  • The paintwork of the car
  • The condition of the engine
  • The oil and brake fluid levels
  • Read carefully the documents
  • Check out whether it has key double
  • Check the registration of a sales contract
buying a used car checklist

Now let's get into the details!

How can I find out the actual mileage of a car?

buying a used car

Regardless of whether you are planning to buy a used car from a friend, coworker, an authorized dealer's car dealership, etc., you need to pay attention to both, the technical condition and the interior condition of the car.

First of all, you need to check the compliance of the mileage with the declared one. Unfortunately, it is not prohibited by law to roll the mileage in some countries. That's why determining the actual mileage is not an easy task when buying a used car, but it is also not impossible.

The best option is when the car has a transparent history i.e. it was owned by one owner and there are all the marks about the passage of MOT in the service book. It would also be great if there are work orders with receipts for the work performed and the car is under warranty.

Another option to confirm if the used car has high mileage is to compare the average mileage and the age of the vehicle. Usually, the normal average mileage is up to 30,000 km per year. If you have a ten-year-old car with a mileage of 60,000 km in front of you, then, let's be honest - it might be weird! However, remember that there are times when the car was not used that often, especially if it's not the only car in the family.

That's why you shouldn't be too skeptical and you shouldn't always jump to the conclusion that the seller is laying to you.

Indirect signs of high car mileage

An indirect sign of high mileage of a used car is the condition of the interior, especially the driver's seat. Usually, with high mileage, it is heavily worn out and often washed out. It is also necessary to pay attention to the condition of the steering wheel. If the steering wheel is wiped into holes. Then it is unlikely that the mileage on the car is less than 100,000 km.

The steering wheel just tightened with leather should also be an alert because this trick is often used by unscrupulous sellers. Make sure to also pay attention to the pedal pads that also might be worn out or have holes. Sometimes the mileage is also given out by ridiculous accidents. For example, stickers about the passage of MOT at the end of the door or tags with an oil change, where the mileage is always written.

Another option for checking the mileage is a diagnostic card of the official vehicle inspection station.

Check the quality of the paintwork

car paint

This also might be super difficult to check out when buying a used car. As a rule, you cannot do it without a special measuring device. And even with the help of the device, it is not always possible to establish the true thickness of the coating.

However, you can trust the device because it is much better than just checking it with a naked eye. It is also worth paying attention to the uniformity of the shade of different details. In fact, sometimes the difference can be seen with a naked eye. It is also worth carefully looking at the difference in the joints between the parts. When painting, there are often drips that cannot be removed there.

Traces of masking tape on the inner surfaces should also be an alert. Pay attention to the mounting bolts! Usually, they are unscrewed to replace a part, for example, a wing or a door. But sometimes this is also necessary to replace any other part. For example, accessing a washer motor sometimes involves removing the bumper. Also, make sure to check out shagreen.

This is the uniformity of the paint application, a kind of "undulation". Usually, it is not easy to paint with factory shagreen. The presence of replaced parts is not a reason to refuse a purchase, however, it is a good argument for bargaining. Of course, you should think about good what is acceptable and what not. For example, if the bumpers or even the door were painted, this is an acceptable option.

Yet if the roof or pillars, then this is a serious reason to think good whether you really want to purchase that car or not.

Additional things to look out for

If the car is frame-mounted, it is necessary to carefully inspect the place where the VIN is applied. If it is unreadable, then there will be problems with registration! Beware of cars that are using a protection film because you don't know what's underneath. The presence of airbrushing is also controversial - selling such a car is usually more difficult. You should also be careful of completely repainted cars.

Perhaps such a car is being sold after a major body repair. If all these might sound a bit too complicated for you, here is the device I previously mentioned, in case you want to get one before buying a used car:

Check out the condition of the engine

The engine should always run smoothly and the car should always start moving immediately. No "Check Engine" lights should be on the dashboard. Pay attention to the color and smell of the oil of the used car you are about to buy. Oil of a dark color is considered normal, but it should be without a bright pronounced burnt smell. If the oil is crystal clear, then they probably have changed it right before you have arrived.

Check whether the engine number matches the data in the TCP. If they are not matching then it is a sign that the engine has been replaced and you must agree that the replaced engine is a serious reason for bargaining. It is advisable to connect the car to a special diagnostic stand, which will show the presence of errors and their history.

Moreover, check the VIN on the body itself. It must exactly match the data in the TCP. The suspension can be checked with a short test drive or by mechanics. Check with the former owner for oil consumption. Some especially turbocharged cars are very prone to increased use of oil. Of course, it is not a fact that the owner will tell you the truth. However, in this case, the worst question is the unasked one, right?

Finally, pay attention to the braking system - the thickness and condition of the brake discs and brake pads. Worn-out parts in this case are not a reason to refuse a purchase, but again it is an excellent reason to bargain for future repair costs.

Check oil and brake fluid levels before buying a used car

Many people think that the "blood" of the engine is gasoline. This is not entirely true, the oil is even more important. For example, If you forget to check the oil level, the engine life will be significantly reduced. It might overheat and wear out faster and you might need to stop the engine as soon as it warms up.

That's why make sure to check out the oil level. To do this you should remove the dipstick, wipe it with a cloth, and put it back. Then take it out and see how much oil has covered it. There is usually a mark on the dipstick to indicate the required level.

Finally, make sure to also check out the brake fluid level. This can be done by unscrewing the lid from the container. By the way, in case the used car needs some wash after you purchase it, check out our post where you will find the best car soaps and cleaning products.

Study carefully the documents for the car and check the condition of the keys

car keys

You don't want to buy a car pledged in a bank, right? To avoid that, do not hesitate to ask the owner for the car purchase documents: sales contract, receipts, bills, etc. If the car was bought on credit, then ask for a document from the bank confirming the full repayment of the debt. Otherwise, the transaction may be invalidated, because the car is pledged. Study the TCP carefully.

Ask for the original one. Now there is no mark on the duplicates, but you can easily understand which one is in front of you by looking at who issued the title and when. The original is issued by customs and the date is close to the start of the car's operation. A duplicate is also not a reason to refuse a purchase, but it is important to understand why they have given you a duplicate.

Sometimes, of course, the TCP is really lost, but sometimes it can be in the bank. That's why to make sure to make good research regarding this matter. In addition, make sure the car has the same number of keys as you would normally with a new car.

Sometimes there are up to four sets of them. Make sure that the keys and key fobs showed to you are from this particular car. Remember to check whether they are matching with the wheel locks.

How to write a used car purchase agreement correctly?

sales agreement

It is allowed to write a super simple sales contract by yourself. However, traffic police officers check them rather thoroughly and often turn them on for correction. Therefore, carefully check the data which is stated in the contract because legally, only what is specified in the agreement can be considered by the court if that is needed one day. In the case of a purchase from an authorized dealer, the dealer himself takes care of the paperwork.

And here the risk of errors is minimal because it is usually made by professionals. In case you are still having some doubts, check out this book that covers that topic more in detail.

Keep in mind that if you feel insecure about things related to legal sales contracts, then perhaps you can ask your attorney for a piece of advice. You can't go wrong with this decision!

Final Thoughts

As previously mentioned, buying a car is always an exciting experience. In fact, regardless of how funny it may sound many people consider their car as a "member of their family." That's why it is always recommended to carry out a thorough inspection before buying a used car. It will save you a lot of troubles and headaches. If you forget doing this before buying a used car, it might turn out into a real nightmare because not all sellers out there are looking for an honest sale.

In fact, not only it might bring you some additional costs that you have never seen coming, but it even might get you into some legal issues that you have never even imagined before. So, hopefully, this article was helpful to you. Happy purchase!

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