19 Must-Checks When Buying a Used Car

Tips, Used Cars

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used car

If it’s time for you to buy a used car, it’s essential to ensure that it’s in good driving condition before you sign any contracts. Don’t miss anything that may not be up to par! Use this checklist to make sure that you catch all the important details before making the big purchase.


Take a look at all the doors of the car, and make sure they open and shut properly without a lot of noise and effort. Getting a broken door to open and close the way it should is something that could cost quite a bit later on.

Timing Belt

When the timing belt gives out, it will be one of the more expensive fix-ups you’ll need to do on your used car. Before you buy the vehicle, double check that the timing belt looks good, especially if the car has a lot of miles on it. Most timing belts will need replacing at about the 100,000 mile mark.


You can tell a lot about the car and its previous owner or current seller by checking the vehicle’s oil. If the oil looks black and leaves a streak on your fingers, it means it hasn’t been changed in awhile.


Rust can eat holes in any car. During your personal inspection, always check that the vehicle is not already under attack. Rust can be hard to spot because it doesn’t always show up in easy-to-see locations, so be sure to thoroughly check in hidden areas.


Give the upholstery an exhaustive examination, and look for any tears, stains, or non-working armrests. You should never overlook this part of a check. If you end up buying the car and driving it regularly, you will quickly notice if something is wrong with one of your seats.

Air Conditioning

Turn on the air conditioning, and wait long enough to see if it is working. Having to recharge the refrigerant shortly after purchasing the car is no fun, and a non-working air conditioning system can mean big bucks to repair (and a hot summer).


If the seller has an air freshener in the car, it may be a signal that they are trying to cover up a bad smell. During your test drive, be sure to roll down the windows to try to get some of that air freshener scent out of the interior. This way, you can get a better idea of how the car really smells.

Steering Wheel

When you’re taking your test drive, the steering wheel will give you an assortment of clues about the car’s general health. If it shakes at high speeds, you could be in for some big repairs—at the very least an alignment.


When it comes to shifting from gear to gear, you should walk away immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Transmissions are one of the costliest parts of a car, and most vehicles will never fully recover from transmission repair.


You don’t want to drive away with a car that will need its brakes replaced right away, so always examine how they feel and sound. Check for brakes that are “squishy” when you press the pedal, and listen for squeaking or squealing brakes as you stop.


For about $40, you can pick up a digital diagnostics tool that will give you a rough idea of what’s wrong with the car and how well it’s running at that moment.

Paint Job

Closely inspect a car’s paint job to see if there are any cracks or dents that need to be addressed before being purchased.


Take a good, long look at the car’s tires, and make sure they pass the tread test. You don’t want to end up stuck in poor weather conditions with tires that can’t keep you safe.


Don’t even bother purchasing a used car if the frame has been impaired. Frame damage isn’t worth the expense or the hassle, and the car will never be the same again.

Exhaust System

It can be tricky to analyze the exhaust system before buying a car, but you can look under the car and inspect it once you have it up in the air. That’s why it’s a good idea to take the car to a shop; you can have a good look at what’s underneath.

Hoses and Belts

Once you look under the hood, you should check that all  the hoses and belts look as they should. Make sure that there are no loose hoses or worn belts.


Ensure that there is no obvious damage to the engine!


Take a look in the car’s trunk, and determine its overall condition. You’ll want to lift up the panel of the trunk to see what it looks like beneath. If there is a spare tire under the panel, lift that up too so you can see if there is any rust underneath.

Lights, Radio, Etc.

Lastly, you’ll want to check out all the electrical components of the car like the lights, radio, and dashboard. Make sure everything is in working order. If there is a light out or if the radio doesn’t work, then you’ll need to let the seller know to factor that into the price.

We’ll Walk You Through It

Inspecting a car before purchasing it can be a lot of work. At Ride Time, we put our cars through a 158-point inspection so you know that you’re getting a high-quality automobile. We will also walk you through any questions you may have and show you exactly what you are buying. Stop in today to see how easy it can be to buy a high-quality used car!


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