If you’re considering buying a pre-owned car, the following used vehicle inspection check sheet will help ensure you don’t end up buying a car with serious flaws. A visual inspection and even a test drive can hide serious issues, like engine and transmission problems. A quality used vehicle inspection can catch these problems and help ensure that the car you’re considering doesn’t become a nightmare.

Used Vehicle Inspection Check Sheet


☐ Paint condition (appearance and finish)

☐ Dings or Dents

☐ Rust concerns

☐ Body panels (alignment and fit)

☐ The condition of the carpeting in the trunk

☐ Appears to have been in an accident

☐ Exterior modifications adherence to factory specifications

☐ Frame damage

☐ Window, mirror or windshield damage


Check for fluid leaks, including the following:

☐ Engine oil (and confirm the last date it was changed)

☐ Power steering fluid

☐ Transmission fluid

☐ Brake fluid

☐ Coolant

☐ Differential fluid


☐ Heating system

☐ Air conditioning system

☐ Condition of battery

☐ Door locks

☐ All windows are operational

☐ All power options work

☐ Check for delays between the speed of the vehicle and engine speed

☐ Automatic transmission shifts properly

Check All Lights

☐ Headlights

☐ Taillights

☐ Turn signals

☐ Brake lights

☐ Back-up lights

☐ Hazard/Emergency lights

☐ Interior lights

☐ System failure warning lights


☐ Problems with alignment

☐ Problems with suspension

☐ Shocks/Struts

☐ Wear on ball joints

☐ CV Boots/Joints

☐ U-Joints

☐ Link pins

☐ Bushings

☐ Rack and pinion

☐ Idler/Pitman arm

Brake Systems Check

☐ Do the brakes make noise, grab and/or lock-up?

☐ Does the vehicle shudder when braking?

☐ Are brake linings within the advised thickness?

☐ Problems with hydraulic systems

☐ Does the parking brake work?

☐ Condition of brake pads

☐ Does the brake pedal pressure feel right?

☐ The drums and discs

☐ The master cylinder

☐ Drum brakes – wheel cylinders

☐ Calipers/ disc brake assembly

Engine Performance

☐ Compression for each cylinder

☐ All hoses and belts appear undamaged

☐ Exhaust system complete and operating

☐ Emissions control intact and operating

☐ Condition of spark plugs

Tread/Wheel Wear

☐ Condition of the tires

☐ Remaining tread depth, front, and back (minimum 5/32″)

☐ Condition of valve stems

☐ Tire pressure accurate on all tires

☐ Camber, caster, and toe-in of the wheels fall within the manufacturer’s specifications


☐ Starts without hesitating

☐ Cold engine idle

☐ Warm engine idle

☐ No irregular engine sounds

☐ Throttle performance

☐ No unusual exhaust noises

☐ Shift interlock and transmission performance

☐ Clutch performance (if applicable), shifts correctly without slipping

☐ No unusual noises

☐ Steering alignment is correct

☐ Vehicle tracks correctly when driving

☐ The ABS system operates properly

☐ Dash lights and gauges are operational

☐ Cruise control (set, cancel and resume functions) are working right

☐ The parking brake is operational (sets/holds/releases)

☐ Listen for excess body/suspension noise

Don’t let the seller or used car dealership provide the inspection because, in most cases, third parties typically don’t have your best interests at heart.  When looking for a reputable auto care center to perform a used vehicle inspection, compare prices, but keep in mind that a thorough vehicle inspection isn’t going to be the cheapest. Look for a shop that does more than a visual inspection, which is basically a waste of time (and money).

Print out this used vehicle inspection check sheet and use it before you buy your car. Or better yet, let us do a thorough inspection of the car you’re buying. Contact us today.

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