Checklist for buying a car


To help you discern if the vehicle is worthy of buying, bring the following items with you for inspecting the vehicle:

  • Paper towels for checking the engine oil
  • A small flashlight for looking under the car for leaks and corrosion
  • A small magnet for detecting concealed body work
  • A printed inspection checklist (detailed below)
  • If possible, an car history report

With these tools in hand, go through the following checklist. It would be helpful for you to print this page and take it with you to make sure you cover all bases.


Car Make:______________________________________________________________________

Car Model:_____________________________________________________________________

Year: _________________________________________________________________________

Mileage: ______________________________________________________________________

Number of Owners: _____________________________________________________________

Seller’s Name: _________________________________________________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________


Date Inspected: ________________________________________________________________




  • Windshield free of cracks
  • Body panel colours match
  • Fresh paint job? (if yes, it could be to conceal rust)
  • Magnet adheres to all steel body panels
  • Seams where the boot and bonnet close are properly aligned
  • Seams where doors and bumpers meet are properly aligned
  • Free of body scratches and dents
  • Headlights and directional lights intact and fully functional


  • Tyres are free of any cuts, bubbles or cracks
  • Tyre treads worn evenly (uneven wear indicates alignment and suspension problems)
  • Spare tyre, jack and wrench are present and functional
  • Spare tyre inflated


  • Free of fluid or oil leaks
  • Oil filler neck not coated with thick, black deposits
  • Battery terminals free of corrosion
  • Oil dipstick free of dark, black oil
  • Free of odors while engine is running
  • Exhaust pipe emissions are neither blue (indicates engine burns oil) or black (indicate excessive oil consumption)


  • Vehicle rests levelly
  • When bouncing the vehicle's corners, no creaking noises are made
  • All corners respond the same when bouncing


  • All doors and boot open and close freely
  • Lacks a heavy scent of air freshener (may indicate something is being concealed)
  • All dashboard gauges work
  • No dashboard warning lights remain illuminated
  • Stereo works
  • Heater works
  • Air conditioner works
  • Windshields wipers, blades, and spray dispenser fully functional
  • All seats equipped with functional seat belts
  • All seats adjust properly
  • Power windows operate properly
  • Sunroof opens and closes properly (if applicable)
  • Car alarm works (if applicable)
  • Boot and driver-side door lock and unlock with key
  • Hazard lights function properly
  • Headlights, including brights, work properly


  • Chassis is neither bent nor cracked
  • No signs of crumpling or straightening inside the trunk
  • Frame holes just inside outer edge clean and free of scratches


  • Each gear shifts smoothly
  • No grinding noises when in reverse


  • Vehicle steers straight and does not pull to one side when applying brakes
  • No grinding noises when breaking
  • Wheels do not lock when applying antilock brakes (if applicable)


  • Vehicle does not drift to one side without prodding
  • Vehicle is stable; no shaking or vibrating
  • No resistance in the steering wheel when turning
  • No clicking or clunking when turning


  • Car manual located in the glove compartment
  • Service and repair records available
  • Owner can provide a copy of the vehicle logbook
  • Owners details match that on the logbook
  • Does the car have 2 keys

Other Insights

  • Walk away if the seller objects to your inspection
  • Don't feel rushed while inspecting
  • Try to get a mechanic to assess checklist results

Download CarChecklist.pdf