Used-Car-Buyer's Checklist

CARS.COM – When shopping for a used car from a private seller or dealer, the choices are endless and that can make the process seem daunting, but buying a used car can be worth it, especially when it comes to price. 

As a potential used-car buyer, there's a lot to consider before handing over your hard-earned cash. We've created this step-by-step checklist to help get you on your way to buying a used car that best fits your life. 

  • Decide which make and model you want.
  • Research the used car's asking price.
  • Find out how much it would cost to finance the vehicle using Cars.com auto loan calculators.
  • Find out how much it would cost to insure the vehicle.
  • Research the used car's vehicle history using online and printed resources.
  • Interview prospective sellers over the phone or on email before meeting them in person.
  • Set a daytime appointment to meet in the parking lot of your local police station, if they allow it (many do). 
  • Before starting the test drive, check the used car's undercarriage, engine and body for rust or damage.
  • Check the interior for cleanliness, comfort and size. Think about how you plan to use this car: Will you be using it for work and need a lot of cargo capacity or do you need to install your children's bulky child-safety seats into the backseat?
  • Inspect the tires for wear. 
  • Check the oil for the proper level and color.
  • Check the coolant and radiator for leaks or corrosion.
  • Drive on the highway to gauge acceleration and handling.
  • On city streets (preferably a side street), test the brakes by hitting them hard.
  • Test the used car's steering and alignment.
  • Practice parking for maneuverability and sight lines.
  • After the test drive, inspect the engine for leaks, odors or smoke.
  • Request and review the service records, receipts and title.
  • Have a mechanic inspect the car you're thinking of buying.

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