Kicking the tires and looking at the color of the engine oil on a dipstick simply isn’t enough to check your used car investment. The next time you’re looking to buy a previously owned car, use this checklist to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
Run a VIN history report. The VIN number is located either on the driver’s side just under the windshield or on the driver’s side door jam. Run that number through any VIN checking service before you buy.
Car Exterior Checklist
Check for exterior signs of accidents or damage.
Are the colors mismatched? Does any of the paint look “sprayed over”?
Does any single panel of the car repainted? For what reason? This could mean an accident in the past or a serious case of corrosion.
Look under the car. Are there any oil or coolant leaks from the engine block?
Look at the engine itself — is it oily or dirty?
Check the oil level. Is it low? Is the oil’s color extremely dark? Either is a sign of engine trouble.
Now start the engine. Does it start up efficiently or unevenly? During startup, are there any sounds like pinging, whistling, or knocking?
Outside of water vapor, are there any visible signs of trouble like smoke?
Do any warning lights come on the dashboard while the engine runs? You may see a “check engine” light — does the owner know why it comes on?
Is the oil pressure really low while the car idles? Another sign of engine problems.
Accelerate the engine — do you feel any hesitation?
While the car is running, are there any funny smells from the engine, such as burning oil?
Look at the shock absorbers — are they leaking any fluid?
Pay special attention to the shock absorber boots, noting any breaks or problems.
While driving the car, does the steering move easily?
Check the tires for irregular wear patterns that could indicate an alignment problem.
Listen for knocking noises or any unusual noise when you drive over a bump.
Brakes and Tires Checklist
Check the brake fluid container — are there any leaks?
Push the brake pedal — does it go easily down to the floor? Is it rigid enough and not too “spongy” feeling?
Look under the car for brake fluid leaks.
While driving the car, are there any “pulses” in the steering or brakes?
When braking, do you hear a grinding noise?
Does the car pull to one side when you press the brake?
If the engine and other parts of the car look acceptable, look around the interior.
Press you hand to the carpet to feel for any moisture.
Turn on the audio and entertainment systems and make sure they work — that means testing the radio, tape player, CD player, navigation system, etc.
Turn on the air conditioner and test how long it takes to get cool.
Check all the power interior parts — locks, windows, mirrors, sunroof, and anything else powered by the car.
Listen for wind noise during a drive with the windows up.
Last but not least, check for the presence of a spare tire, tire jack, and wheel wrench. If these aren’t present, come down on your asking price.
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Our dealership has been Serving Calgary Alberta since 2013.
We specialize in used cars and always try to get the best deals for our customers.
Award-winning, family owned car dealership of pre-owned vehicles with several locations across the city. Lowest prices and the best customer service guaranteed.
Feel free to contact us and test drive one of our cars today. We value your business. Referrals are welcome and remember we pay cash for referrals.