Buyer Tips

6 Tips on How to Properly Inspect Used Car Before Buying

By Daisy Emah-Emah Posted: 09/16/2022

Are you looking to purchase a used car but don’t know how to inspect used car properly?


Before making a purchase we recommend doing your due diligence before committing to a vehicle. This can be running a VIN check, requesting a vehicle history report, or physically inspecting the vehicle.

A vehicle history report as the name implies gives you a rundown of the vehicle before it landed at the auctions. It has information on the title, owner(s), mileage/odometer reading, damage history, maintenance records, etc. This usually costs a few dollars to get and can be gotten on platforms like CARFAX or AUTOCHECK.

A physical inspection helps you understand the current condition of the vehicle – if it is worth your time or a lemon. You can inspect used car yourself, which costs little to no money, or hire the services of a mechanic to handle the inspection.

Do note that you can usually find an inspection company for between $150 – $200 to do a thorough inspection of the vehicle you are interested in. If you dont know any, please ask us and we may be able to set it up for you

However, If you are knowledgeable about cars, can get to the auction lot, and are confident you can inspect the vehicle yourself, but don’t know how – we’ve got you!


Check out this guide to help you get started. We recommend having a professional mechanic do the inspection or hiring the services of an inspection company. Please note also, that this guide is simply to give you an idea of how to go about inspecting a vehicle and should not be your main source of information – require the services of a professional.


Finding the Vehicle to Purchase

Sign up on the platform you wish to purchase your vehicle. Create an account to make your security deposit – this is usually 10% of the purchase price for most platforms or $600, whichever is higher. Once this is complete, you will have access to the complete inventory. You can search for the vehicle of your choice. 

You can make use of the filter options to narrow down your search. Once you have locked on the vehicle you wish to buy, you can have it inspected before purchase. Inspection should be done at least 48hrs before the auction. 


How do You Inspect Used Car 

1. Evaluate Vehicle Exterior

When evaluating the vehicle’s exterior, check the panels and roof to look for scratches, rust, and dents. Pay extra attention to panels that are misaligned or have large gaps in them. This could mean that it was assembled in a sloppy way by the manufacturers or the repairs were done shabbily. Check to see if the paint finish and color are the same o every part of the panel.  

Open and close each door to see if there may be loose hinges ad also inspect the rubber seals for signs of tear. Pay close attention to visible rust at the wheel wells, doors ad panels under the doors. 

Check the glass to make sure there are o cracks or pocked areas to avoid incurring the extra costs of repairs.


2. Check the Tires

If the vehicle you are looking to buy is less than 20k miles, it should still have its original tires – check all four tires to see if they are the same. Be wary of low-mileage vehicles with new tires. Inspect the tires for tread wear – all four tires should have the same treadwear on the left and right sides. Check the sidewalls of the tires for cracks or scuffings and dents on the wheels

Inspect the suspension by walking around the vehicle to note its sitting level. Push down each corner to see if it bounces back up. If it does the shock absorbers are still functioning. Pull the front tire back and forth, if you hear a clunking sound it’s likely the wheel bearings or shot suspension joints. 

Underside Car Inspection

3. Check Under the Hood

Inspect the general condition of the engine area, and make sure this is done when the engine is cool. Check under the vehicle for oil spatter and traces as this may be a sign of oil leaks. Check the hoses and belts in the various components of the vehicle for cracks and tears. 

Examine the radiator, if there are greenish stains on the outside of the radiator it is a sign of leaks. Also, examine the battery for corrosion, hanging, and loose wires. Use battery health equipment to get an accurate reading of the condition of the battery.

Inspect underneath the vehicle for signs of rust, oil drips, and leaks under the vehicle and on the floor. You can have a professional mechanic examine underneath the vehicle for you. 


4. Inspect Used Car Interior

Inspecting the interior is important because you will be spending most of your time inside the vehicle. Smell the interior to make sure the vehicle has no foul musty or moldy smell as it could be a sign of water leaks. Examine the interiors for wet spots on the carpets. Check the seats and upholstery to make sure they aren’t badly ripped or damaged. 

Examine the pedals and note the level of wear in case you need to replace the pads. Turn on the ignition and start the engine. Check the warning lights on the dashboard, and turn on the heater and air conditioning to see if they are working as well.  Examine the sound system, radio, and the entire interior of the vehicle to make sure they are all in good condition. 


5. Test Run the Vehicle

This is one of the most important parts of vehicle inspection, to test the maneuverability, acceleration, braking, and suspension of the vehicle. Plan routes to help you test and listen to the sound of the vehicle. Going for a test drive will help you test the features and other functionalities of the vehicle. 


6. Get a Second Opinion 

For those who cannot or do not wish to inspect used car themselves, you can hire the services of an inspection company. They can also give you a second opinion on the vehicle you want to purchase. You can also request a vehicle history report to understand the history of the vehicle from the time of purchase up till it landed in the auctions. Our team can assist you with hiring an inspection company or getting a vehicle history report. 


Further Reading

  1. 5 Sites you Need to Check Before Buying a Used Car 
  2. What Should I Check For When Buying a Car
  3. How to Get the Best Vehicle History Report on Auction Cars for Sale 
  4. Is it Worth Getting a Physical Inspection Before Making My Purchase?


What next?

You can start the process of getting your dream vehicle today. Sign up to our website for free and have access to our inventory of over 150k vehicles to choose from. You do not require a license to bid on the dealer and wholesale vehicles. 


Create your account – make your deposit – and bid on the vehicle of your choice!


Sign up here to get started!