Buying a used car can be a gamble. You might get a great deal on a reliable vehicle. On the other hand, you could be inheriting the previous owner’s problems. How do you find a great used car and avoid bringing home a nightmare that will constantly break down and cause problems? Use this used car checklist to help you spot any problems before you decide which car to buy.

1. Get the car’s history. If you can, get a copy of the Carfax report for the vehicle you are considering buying. This report will tell you if the car has been in an accident or if it has been totaled. If you can’t get the Carfax, ask the previous owner if the car has ever been in an accident and if so, what repairs were required.

2. Take the car for a test drive. Try driving at different speeds and listen to the engine. Does it make any funny sounds? If so, it may be best to find a different vehicle. While you are test driving the car, check out everything you can think of to test. Does the radio work? The heat and air conditioning? Power windows? Windshield wipers? Turn signals? Also, pay attention to how well the car drives. Does the transmission slip? How responsive are the brakes? Does the steering pull to one side? Does the car shake or make unexpected noises? If something doesn’t work, ask yourself how important it is and consider how much it will likely cost to get it fixed.

3. Do a thorough inspection. If the car passes the test drive, use this used car checklist to see if you can find any problems you didn’t notice during the test drive.

  • Check the windshield for cracks.
  • Check all of the locks, including the trunk.
  • Make sure the doors and trunk open and close properly.
  • Make sure the windows all roll up and down.
  • Check the seatbelts.
  • Check to make sure the seats can be adjusted.
  • If there is a sunroof, make sure it works.
  • Check the car alarm.
  • Check the lights.
  • Check for warning lights on the dashboard.
  • Check for dents and scratches.
  • Check the tires.
  • Check to see if there is a spare tire, jack, and lug wrench.
  • Check any steel panels with a magnet to detect filler.
  • Make sure there are no leaks.
  • Check to make sure the oil is not black.
  • Make sure the car doesn’t creak when you bounce in it.
  • Check the battery for corrosion.
  • Pay attention to whether the car smells when it is running.
  • Check to see if the exhaust gives off smoke.

4. Check the title. Make sure the person listed as the owner is the person you’re dealing with. Also, check the VIN number on the title against the VIN number on the vehicle. Make sure there are no liens listed on the title that must be signed off in order to get a clean title.

Are you looking for a used car in the Phoenix area? We have six locations in Arizona. Check out our inventory online or come in to see our selection of reliable used cars.