Used Car Buying Checklist

Going used car shopping? Use this printable sheet to record any major red flags or issues with the vehicle to help avoid a major financial mistake

When buying a used car there are a number of things to watch out for. This checklist will give you an idea of all the main things to check over before making a major purchase on a used vehicle. Of course, an inspection by an independent mechanic is the ultimate way to go into your purchase with confidence. That can be expensive though, so by doing your own pre-check with this list, you’ll know if it is worth it or not to proceed to that step.


  • Make, model and year
  • Milage (lower is better)
  • MPG - miles per gallon, good to know when comparing gas powered vehicles as this directly translates into operating cost in your budget
  • Batter Ragne - for EVs (electric vehicles) the range diminishes as it is used due to battery degradation. Replacement batteries in EVs are super expensive.
  • CarFax or other background check looks good (no wrecks, no title brands)
  • Has evidence of regular maintenance
  • Drives smoothly
  • No check engine light
  • Has at least 2 keys that both work


  • It is good to lookup the and NHAST for the vehicle’s exact make model and year (they can change year to year, even within the same body style).
  • Does it have a backup camera?
  • Other advanced features like BLIS (blind spot indicator), auto braking features, lane departure warnings, etc?
  • Seat belts function


  • Engine compartment condition, leaks
  • Fluid levels look good Oil, Brake, Coolant, Power steering
  • Shifts smoothly, reverse gear works
  • Breaks - smoothly, watch for jerkiness, spongy pedal
  • Tires - matching set, tread even
  • Alignment - drives in a straight line by itself
  • Heater works
  • AC Works
  • Headlights, high beams, fog lights all work
  • Turn signals work
  • Check for recalls using the NHTSA website or manufacturer website


  • Battery age
  • For PHEV and EVs - battery range at full charge and overall condition
  • Power Windows work
  • Door locks work
  • All buttons work
  • Stereo works


  • Dings / scratches in the body
  • Glass - cracks
  • Seat fabric condition

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