You plan to start your days downtown, end them in the suburbs, and cruise down miles of city streets in between in the coming months. The problem? You need a dependable car to make this happen.

Research shows that the supply of used vehicles no older than three years for sale in September 2023 was nearly 30% lower than in 2019. That's because carmakers sold several million fewer new cars than usual between 2020 and 2022 due to COVID-19. This means you may find it easier to buy an older used car — one with significantly higher mileage — this fall.

Fortunately, our used car inspection checklist can help ensure you get one that lasts for years. Let's explore this checklist here.

Where to Buy Used Cars

Your local dealership isn't your only option for buying a quality used car. You can find excellent deals online. The best websites to buy used cars include:

  • eBay Motors

  • Carvana


  • CarGurus

  • Autotrader

These websites allow you to browse cars for sale and purchase the vehicle directly through the site. Online car auctions can also be a convenient way to buy a used car since you can bid on various cars without physically visiting multiple dealers.

Used Car Inspection Checklist:

Check for Crash Damage

An important task to include on your used car inspection checklist is to examine your prospective car for damage. Buyers should avoid purchasing vehicles that have been involved in major accidents.

Savvy buyers begin their pre-purchase car inspections by examining their target cars for traces of paint overspray inside the doors, hood, and trunk. Overspray refers to paint that doesn't land in the intended area (e.g., due to wind). This is an indicator that certain parts of these cars were re-sprayed following an accident.

Look at your car's panels. Small misalignments are also clues that your desired vehicle was in a crash. Online car buyers can spot these problems by carefully studying the car photos that sellers post online.

Engine Check

Your used car checklist should also include a thorough engine check. Check your prospective vehicle's radiator fluid using your finger.

The fluid shouldn't contain oily droplets and be foamy, which may be signs of a malfunctioning head gasket. A head gasket is a vital seal that helps keep your engine cool and performing correctly.

Examine the car's oil, too. Engine oil should be copper or brown. Walk away from vehicles whose oil is tar black or milky. Both are signs that the engine isn't working correctly.

Start the car's engine as part of your used car inspection before buying the car. Don't buy vehicles with banging, whistling, or clucking sounds, which indicate engine problems.

Remember that a person buying a car online may ask a seller to record themselves performing the above-mentioned tasks if they live far from the seller. Sellers with nothing to hide should be fine taking these steps to sell their vehicles.

Dashboard Check

A full car inspection checklist should include a detailed dashboard check. Choose a vehicle whose dashboard elements (e.g., oil indicator and tire pressure lights) light up once the key is turned to the final position before you start the engine. Pay close attention to engine warning lights during the basic vehicle inspection since they could point to expensive problems if ignored.

Excessive Wear

Cars that owners have abused by driving them aggressively have shorter lifespans than cars driven conservatively. Signs that a car may have a shorter lifespan include worn rubber footpads on the pedals and excessive wear on the car's gear lever and steering wheel.

Research Car Value

Another important task to add to your used car safety inspection checklist is researching your desired car's value. Knowing the Kelley Blue Book value will help you confidently negotiate the car's final price with the seller. You can avoid overpaying for your desired car.

Car Mechanic Inspection

Hire a mechanic to examine the car you'd like to buy if you're unsure how to perform the above-listed safety inspection steps. A reputable seller should be willing to arrange a time for your mechanic to examine their car.

A used car mechanic inspection checklist should include examining the vehicle's external appearance, tires, and heating and cooling system. Your mechanic may also check the car's brakes and fluids to ensure the vehicle is operating properly.

Selling a Used Car

Do you plan to sell a car online before buying one? You may ask, "Should I sell my car to a dealer or a private person?"

Selling to a dealer may be faster since they'll handle the paperwork for you, but you may be able to sell your vehicle for more money with a private person. That's because dealers look for cars at low prices so they can sell them for a profit after covering financing, warranties, repairs, and inspections.

Be prepared to let a prospective private buyer complete the second hand car inspection checklist items mentioned above when considering your car. This may lead to a quicker and easier sale.

Remember that the best time to sell a car is in the spring when the weather is pleasant. Marketing your vehicle in this season may also help expedite your car sale.

Auto Shipping Costs

Suppose you find the perfect vehicle or a buyer for your car but they live hundreds of miles away. Auto transport companies can help ship the car to its destination. A reputable company will perform a car hauler inspection before the trip to ensure your car's and the carrier's efficiency and safety.

How much does auto transport cost? The cost to ship a car to another state varies depending on your car's model and make and the shipping distance.

Shipping the vehicle 500 miles away might cost $600. Cross-country car shipping (1,300 or more miles away) may cost $1,300. Use a car shipping calculator to determine your final price.

How We Can Help With Auto Transport

A comprehensive used car inspection checklist includes checking your target car for engine or dashboard problems. You should also research the car's value online to ensure you don't overpay.

Nexus Auto Transport can ship your dream used car to your destination once you purchased it. We will complete the task promptly and safely. Schedule a pickup today and receive $50 off with our discount code!

Get a car shipping quote in seconds!