How to inspect a used car

How To Inspect A Used Car

Know Before You Buy! A Step-by-Step Guide On How To Inspect A Used Car.

In today’s world, the used car market is always the way to go. However, when it comes to knowing just how to inspect a used car, most people aren’t quite sure where to start! They’ll often retreat to some basic, overly-obvious observations like, “are there any scratches, dents, or dings? Do the tires appear new? Are there any modifications to the body of the vehicle?” And what about the interior? “Did the previous owner get the car detailed before your inspection? Any obvious damage or markings?” And the inspection typically ends there!

For your next used car purchase, be sure to follow our step-by-step guide below, so that the next time you go to see a car, you’ll know just how to inspect a used car like a professional! To make it easy, we’ve separated the main checkpoints into 5 criteria – check it out below!

5 Things To Focus On When Learning How To Inspect A Used Car

The Exterior

This is where it all starts! Walk around the car several times and be sure to view it from a couple of different angles to get a better understanding of excessive wear and tear, scratches, dents, or dings. Then, briefly look at the doors and body panels – any misaligned panels can indicate past damage. Be sure to open all of the doors and feel around the car and its edges. Any rough edges could indicate “tape lines” from previous repairs. Examine the paint closely for any cloudy sections or imperfections and make sure all body panels match in color.


Any damage to the interior of a used car can be easily covered up and dressed up with some professional detailing and a good cleaning. If you’re inspecting a used car, be sure to pay attention to odors, stains, and water marks to indicate flooding, moisture, and mold (learn how to inspect a used car for flood damage here). Play with the buttons and knobs to be sure that all are functioning, and turn the car on the check out the stereo and all electronic options and functions. In addition, check to make sure that all windows, seatbelts, and locks are functioning properly.

Under The Hood

The inner workings of your potential new car should be in great condition. And you can check the condition by a quick visual inspection! Just look for signs of leaks by checking all hoses and seals around the radiator and the engine. Keep an eye out for signs of moisture or stains. In addition, take a look at some of the visible nuts and bolts on your engine and body panels like your hood and fenders. Do they look different than others? Are there signs of repairs? Be sure that all of the fluids are at the correct level and are clean. “Milky” oil or coolant can indicate major issues with your engine and cooling system. Lastly, start the engine and watch it run for a few minutes while paying close attention to signs of smoke, loud noises, or odd ticking.

Tires & Brakes

First and foremost, you should always be sure to check the tire tread depth – and it’s easy! Perform a simple test by grabbing a penny from your pocket and placing it into the tread with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see most of Lincoln’s head your tires need to be replaced. In addition, look for signs of uneven tire wear, because that could be an alignment issue. Check for cracks along the tire tread and sidewall. This is common among older tires and can lead to leaks. Also, don’t forget to check the brake rotors and pads for excessive wear and tear and rust. Deep grooves in your brake rotors or discoloration indicate excessive wear and can affect braking performance. You should even apply the parking brake to be sure that it’s functioning properly.

Road Test It!

Once your visual inspection is complete, put her in drive and give it a real road test! This will give you the opportunity to get behind the wheel and really get a feel for your new car, and it’ll let you test out the engine, transmission, the brakes, and all of the amenities that come included with your used car. Any hesitation or hard shifting can indicate issues with your engine or transmission. Pay close attention for any suspension clunking while going over bumps and make sure your car drives straight and does not pull to either side. Above all, be sure to buckle up and be safe!

It’s not easy learning how to inspect a used car by reading a few articles or watching a few videos so it is always better to be safe and hire a professional to perform a pre purchase inspection. If the slightest doubt arises during your own inspection, do not hesitate to walk away from a great deal. There will always be another vehicle to buy and it sure beats getting stuck with thousands in unplanned repairs.

Motovise conducts used car pre purchase inspections in New Jersey. Book your used car inspection with Motovise in New Jersey!

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