| CARCHEX Research Center

The CARCHEX Car Inspection Checklist

Looking to buy a used car? Then a thorough pre-purchase inspection is important. It takes more than just a quick look to make sure you get your money’s worth. In this article, CARCHEX shares the details of a comprehensive car inspection checklist.

General Data

The first step in car inspection is gathering general data. This helps you especially when comparing multiple vehicles. Data includes:

CARCHEX can send a qualified inspector to perform a 155-point inspection on any car in the country. Order an authorized CARCHEX inspection now.

Exterior Inspection

Bonus Tip 1: Do the panel, fender, and door lines appear smooth? If not, it may mean shabby past bodywork. If a section look suspicious, see if a magnet sticks to it. If not, then filler repair was done on the car.

Bonus Tip 2: Low mileage? New tires? Great, right? Maybe not. Some scam artists roll back the odometer and slap on cheap new tires to make it look like the car has low mileage. Make sure all the tires are the same brand and size.

Interior Inspection

Now check the inside of the car. Look for:

Bonus Tips: Smell moldy inside? Could be a water leak. Lift up floor mats and look for signs of water damage. Sit in every seat and test every seat belt. Make sure you can adjust the driver’s seat to fit your height and driving position.

Under The Hood

When the engine is cool, squeeze and touch the hose and belts. They should feel soft and supple. Hardness means age and wear.

Check the oil. It should be brownish black. If it is clear/yellow then it was recently changed. Gritty oil, water droplets, or foam can all be warning signs of a cracked engine block. The transmission fluid should be pink and not smell burnt.

Road Test

When you take a test ride, take note of the:

Bonus Tip: Look at the car from a distance. Is it tilting to one side? This might mean the shocks are shot. Bounce each corner of the car and see how the suspension responds. Finally, grab a front wheel and give it a strong back-and-forth pull. Any tapping or clunking may mean problems with the suspension or wheel bearings.

Additional Inspection Points

Don’t forget to look at the:


Take lots of photos, especially of defects. This also helps if you go back to look at the car and you suspect there is new damage.

Leave It To A Pro

A thorough car inspection takes time. A professional car inspection service can supply a detailed written report to you. They will also provide valuable comments about any detected abnormalities. A thorough pre-purchase car inspection gives you peace of mind for any used vehicle purchase.

Order a complete CARCHEX pre-purchase inspection today.