General Auto Repair & Service
Tips & Advice - General Auto Repair & Service

A used car checklist can help you avoid purchasing a lemon

Atlanta-area instrument panel
If you're in the market for a car, consider a used one. A used car can be just as dependable and attractive…

If you're in the market for a car, consider a used one. A used car can be just as dependable and attractive as a new model, while saving you money at the same time. However, all used vehicles are not created equal, so you need a car checklist to help you avoid purchasing a lemon.


  • Verify that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the car's dashboard, door post, seller's insurance card and car title is the same in each place.
  • Using the VIN number, research the vehicle's history for accidents or outstanding judgments.
  • Inspect service records to determine the frequency of oil changes and other scheduled maintenance.


  • Test the air conditioning and heater to be sure they work.
  • Check power windows, doors, the sunroof (if there is one), the trunk and any keyless entry systems.
  • Test the audio system and check each component (radio, CD player, speakers, etc.).
  • Test the rear window defroster and check it for grid breaks.
  • Inspect dashboard instruments and check dashboard warning lights in test mode.
  • Ensure seats and headrests can be adjusted.
  • Verify that seat belts and airbags function properly.


  • Examine the car's body, panels and moldings for indentations.
  • Inspect condition of bumpers and grill.
  • Check the car for consistent paint color.
  • Ensure radio antenna works and is not bent.
  • Inspect the windshield for cracks and dings.
  • Check the condition of the tires.

Under the hood

  • Examine the belts and hoses for wear and tear.
  • Check the condition of the fuel lines.
  • Inspect the status of the battery, battery cables and terminals.
  • Examine the condition of the engine/transmission mounts, fuel pump and alternator.
  • Check that the exhaust system is functioning.
  • Inspect the operation of the ignition system and alternator.
  • Examine the condition of the CV boots and joints.
  • Check all the fluid levels for discoloration, contamination or leaks.


  • Ensure that the engine starts easily, idles correctly and drives smoothly.
  • Examine the condition of the springs and struts.
  • Ensure that the car steers properly.
  • Test that the brakes and parking brake are functioning properly and examine the condition of the brake components.
  • Check the car for excessive wheel vibration or irregular alignment.

This checklist will help you make more informed decisions when you're considering the purchase of a used car. In addition, an Atlanta-area mechanic can provide a detailed inspection to ensure that you're getting the best bang for your buck.

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