Buying a Used Car Checklist

Buying a Used Car Checklist

Buying a Used Car Checklist

Buying a used car can be a great way to save money on a reliable vehicle. However, it's important to do your research and inspect the car carefully before you make a purchase. Finding the perfect car is one thing, but finding the perfect car within budget is a whole other ball game. You may need to make some compromises on the way but these steps are essential to finding the perfect car within your budget. We hope that this Buying a Used Car Checklist post inspires you. 

Buying a Used Car Checklist

Buying a Used Car Checklist

Below is a checklist to help you through the process. 

Before you start

  • Set a budget: Determine how much you can afford to spend on the car itself, as well as insurance, gas, and maintenance.
  • Do your research: Decide what type of car you want and how many miles you're willing to accept. Read reviews and compare prices online.
  • Get pre-approved for financing: This will give you a better idea of what you can afford and help you negotiate a better price.

How To Keep Your Car Looking Good 

Inspecting the car

  • Exterior:
    • Check for dents, scratches, and rust.
    • Make sure the paint is in good condition and that the panels are aligned properly.
    • Check the tires for tread wear and damage.
    • Make sure all the lights work properly.
  • Interior:
    • Check for signs of wear and tear, such as rips, stains, and fading.
    • Make sure all the seats, buttons, and knobs work properly.
    • Test the air conditioning and heating.
  • Engine:
    • Look for leaks or drips of oil, coolant, or other fluids.
    • Check the oil level and condition.
    • Listen for any strange noises when the engine is running.
  • Test drive:
    • Take the car for a test drive on a variety of roads and conditions.
    • Pay attention to how the car handles, brakes, and accelerates.
    • Listen for any strange noises or vibrations.


  • Get a vehicle history report: This will tell you if the car has been in any accidents, has any outstanding recalls, or has any other problems.
  • Have the car inspected by a mechanic: This is a good idea even if the car seems to be in good condition.
  • Make sure the seller has the title to the car and that it is free and clear of any liens.


  • Be prepared to walk away if you don't get a good deal.
  • Don't be afraid to negotiate the price.
  • Get everything in writing before you sign anything.

Additional tips

  • Bring a friend or family member with you when you look at cars. They can help you ask questions and give you a second opinion.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions: The seller should be able to answer any questions you have about the car.
  • Trust your gut: If something doesn't feel right, walk away.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away from a deal if you're not comfortable with it. There are plenty of other used cars out there.

Great Cars for Grads from Autotrader

Find the Perfect Car within Budget

  • Plan your budget: You might have a vague idea of how much you can spend on your new car but have you run the numbers? You might have a lot more or less to spend than you think. Start by calculating your monthly expenses and how much you earn (after tax). This will show you what you can realistically afford when buying a new car whether you choose to get a loan for your perfect car or use your savings. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of maintenance and fuel for your new car, not simply the ultimate cost of purchase. 
  • Think of the future: When looking for the perfect car within a budget you’ll not only need to take into account all your needs and wants but also anything you may need or want in the future. A car is a major purchase so you’ll need to factor in what future you are going to need in a car. Looking to have more kids in the future or start a family? Looking to adopt a dog? You’ll need to consider how you are going to feel about your car and whether you’ll need to upgrade again. You might be better off stretching your budget to save more later.
  • Compromise: Of course, you’re not going to get every single thing you want in a car so you’re going to have to compromise. The best way to do this and ensure you make the right choice is to make a pros and cons list and jot down all of your needs vs. wants in a car and prioritize them in order of most importance. This way you can ensure that you’ll make the right decision for both your future and your budget, instead of buying on a whim because something sounded like a good deal at the time.
  • Do your homework: The most important thing when looking for a new car is to do your homework. You’ll likely already have a few models in mind. Start reading reviews and compare them to your needs and wants list. You might find some of the models you like aren’t as perfect as they seem. Instead, you might find models you hadn’t even considered to be a lot more worthwhile than you thought. Once you’ve narrowed down your list to about 5 options, it’s time to take them for a test drive. Get in touch with your local dealer and kick the tires (so to speak). You’ll need to know how a car performs and feels on the road as well as just its features.
  • New or Used: Once you’ve narrowed down your selection and test-driven a few models you’ll start to get a better idea of what you need and want in your next car. Of course, taking a car out for a test drive at a dealer does not mean you need to buy from there. Shop around and look for good deals. You might find that you can buy a better model than you thought by buying a used one. Cars depreciate significantly as soon as they’re driven out of the dealers so you can get a great second-hand car only a few months old for a fraction of the price of buying new.

Finding the perfect car within a budget.


By following these tips, you can increase your chances of buying a used car that you'll be happy with for years to come. We hope that this How to Find the Perfect Car within Budgets post inspires you. Happy shopping!

How to Find the Perfect Car within Budget

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9 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. These are some great tips for buying a car. i always think a used car makes sense but if i could get a deal on new why not? It is a long term process and the pro/con list is a good move.

  2. I will be in the market for a car for my son soon and I am dreading it. This helps a lot. Thank you for the great tips!

  3. You make some great points. Along with gas and maintenance people should also know how much their car insurance will go up. Test drives are a must, with family, so you know who fits where.

  4. These are really helpful tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. I compromised quite a bit when I bought my last car. I didn’t intend to buy the brand I ended up buying.

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