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Create a Used Car Checklist

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 23 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Create A Used Car Checklist

Buyers have two options when they go to view a used car. The first is to listen to the seller, who is sure to point out that only a certifiable dingbat would pass up the opportunity to buy such a fine motor. The second, more sensible option is to get the car checked out.

Of course, it is a good idea to have a professional inspect the car or, failing that, a friend who knows a bit about used cars can come in handy. For those determined to go it alone, create a checklist and use it when carrying out a thorough inspection. A typical checklist may look like this:


  • Are there any bumps, dents, scratches or scuffs?
  • Looking at the bumpers, front and rear wings, bonnet and boot, do all the panels line up evenly?
  • Do all the lights line up evenly and are any chipped?
  • Are there any scratches on the windows or front and rear screens?
  • Do the doors open without creaking and close smoothly without being slammed?
  • Has the exhaust been dented by poor reversing or pumped excessive soot on the bumper?
  • Are all the wheels the same type and the standard wheels for the car?
  • Are the tyres mix and match or all the same make?
  • Do the edges of the tyres have any nicks or signs of kerbing?
  • Are the tyres evenly worn?
  • Is anything hanging loose on the underside of the car?
  • Are there any leaks or spots of rust?


  • Do all the lights work?
  • Does the central locking work?
  • Do the electric windows go up and down smoothly?
  • Does every button work as it should?
  • Does the air-conditioning work?


  • Are there any rips, scuffs or stains on the upholstery?
  • Are any seats loose or do they rattle?
  • Do the seatbelts run smoothly and hold tight when pulled firmly?
  • Are the driver's seat, steering wheel and foot pedals excessively worn for the stated mileage?
  • Have holes been made in dashboard or trim to accommodate mobile phone holders or stereo speakers?
  • Does it smell of cigarettes and are there any cigarette burns?
  • Are all the keys present and is more than one key needed for ignition, doors and boot?
  • Is the carpet damp, perhaps due to a leaky door or sunroof?
  • When wheels are aligned ahead, is the steering wheel straight?


  • Does the engine start easily, settle to an even idle and rev freely when the accelerator is pressed?
  • Are there any noises or leaks from the engine?
  • Are the fluids at the correct levels and is the oil clean or is there white sludge, which could indicate water contamination?
  • Do the pedals work smoothly and the gears engage easily?
  • Make sure the clutch takes up smoothly and doesn't slip?
  • Are the brakes strong, or do they pull to one side?
  • Any unpleasant noises from the suspension, gearbox or clutch?
  • Does the suspension settle quickly?
  • In bends, does the car roll too much or feel too firm?
  • Is the exhaust quiet or does it rattle and is there smoke coming from it?


  • Are all the documents present?
  • Is there a full service history, including MOTs?
  • Do the MOTs run concurrently?
  • Is the mileage backed up by MOTs and service records?
  • Does the seller's name match the name on the logbook?
  • Is the viewing address the same as the one on the logbook?
  • Is work carried out on the car backed up by receipts?
  • Does the engine capacity, fuel type and colour match?

Make a note of any small defects and use the list as a bargaining tool when it comes to haggling over the price. Even if the faults are minor, when faced with an extensive list a seller may have a sudden desire to offload the car and alter the asking price accordingly.

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