Know How To Check A Used Car Effortlessly In 7 Steps Using The Ultimate Used Car Buying Guide & Tools To Avoid Buying A Lemon!

Even If You Know ZERO About Cars, You Can Still Buy Like A Pro!

What Your Ultimate Used Car Buying Guide Includes:

Action steps & checklist on what to look for before buying

Must-do checks to protect yourself from common scams

Paperwork to protect yourself in the transaction

Get vehicle’s DNA to do complete background history checks

Expert tips & tools to save time, money, and headaches


How To Buy A Used Car From A Private Seller In 7 Steps

To minimize the chance of overlooking a problem it’s important to:

  • Have a logical sequence that you can follow quickly and easily
  • Have a used car inspection checklist
  • Have a buyer’s and seller’s receipt form you can complete
  • Do a car check in the daylight
  • Check with the NHTSA that there are no safety issues or recalls.

When buying a car from a private seller, you have to do your own research, history checks, finance checks, vehicle inspection, seller and vehicle identification checks, car registration (varies from state to state) and the list goes on. Alternatively, you can pay to get it inspected by an independent mechanic known as a pre-purchase car inspection. But this can be expensive, especially if you are interested in buying more than one used car.

In fact, in Craig’s business specializing in pre-purchase vehicle inspections, he finds that many customers could have avoided getting multiple pre-car inspections (costing between $200-$300) if they had just done some smart checks. However, instead, I hear them say, “I know, but I’m not a car person or a mechanic.” To help his customer looking for a good used car he created Buying A Private Car eBook.

Knowing what to look for when buying a used car can save you time, money, and headaches. Here we show you how in 7 quick and easy steps without getting your hands dirty so you know what you’re buying. Don’t worry if you know zero about cars because if you follow the steps with the free checklist and receipt forms you will be able to buy a used car like a professional.

Knowing what to check when buying a used car from a private seller or certified pre-owned vehicle (CPO car) from a dealer is necessary to buy with confidence and peace of mind. Here we show you how in a logical and systematic approach so you will be less likely to overlook a component when shopping for a used car.

Step 1: Check Fluid Levels

Step 1 of 7 Check Fluid Levels

A basic mechanical inspection starts with checking all fluid levels. Inspecting the engine when it’s cold allows you to remove the necessary caps to check the fluid levels and the condition safely preventing any burns.

Look for any signs like black tarnish or stains on the engine dipstick and underneath the oil cap indicating extended engine oil change intervals. If you see a milky appearance, this indicates water in engine oil.

Check the engine cooling system for leaks and signs that indicate the vehicle has not been serviced at the required time specified by the manufacturer.
Take note if the engine has been cleaned, this might indicate that there is a serious oil leak. Keep the bonnet up for the next step.

Step 2: Check Under Car

Step 2 of 7 Check Under Car

When inspecting underneath the car without a hoist or the car jacked up it’s best to have the bonnet up to allow more light in and around the underbody of the engine components paying close attention to oil leaks, split C. V joint boots and steering rack boots (Rubber black boots).

Work your way down each side of the car looking underneath with a flashlight for any obvious signs of problems. Inspect the tires paying close attention to tread depth and wear pattern. If the vehicle is fitted with disc brakes it’s possible to check the brake pad thickness through the wheel/rim opening.

Step 3: Check Around Car

Step 3 of 7 Check Body & Paint

Unlock all doors so you can inspect under the doors and around the door pillars whilst going around the car. Pay close attention to “paint and panel”, look for hail damage, rust, and accident damage as well as “fit and finish”, look for paint imperfections and alignment of doors, boot, and bonnet.
You can use a magnet carefully to make sure no body filler has been used to cover up any rust or damage.

Step 4: Check Inside the Car

Step 4 of 7 Check Inside Car

Check all seat belts and other safety devices are working. Make sure the car is in neutral or park with the hand brake on reach in and start the vehicle at the same time check to see if there is any smoke blowing out of the exhaust. While you’re inside the car check the air conditioning is cold, any excessive wear and tear or water damage to the vehicle.

Stop the engine. Check the vehicle’s maintenance records for service history and check for recalls carried out. You can check with the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) online for safety issues or if the vehicle needs to be repaired as part of a recall.

Step 5: Test Drive Car

Step 5 of 7 Test Drive Car

Turn the ignition lights on observe the warning and check lights on the dash panel are operating. Start the engine and check that these lights go out. Check all other functions work correctly, now you are ready to test drive the car.

Try and choose a route that you are more familiar with so you can concentrate more on testing the vehicle. Check the vehicle doesn’t want to steer right or left on a straight road also there is no vibration coming from the steering wheel.

Test drive the vehicle in city traffic, on rough roads and highways where you can build speed, and most importantly up hills where you can test the engine and transmission under load. Check all gauges like the temperature gauge to make sure you don’t have an overheating engine.

Step 6: After the Test Drive

Step 6 of 7 Check Oil Leaks

Open the bonnet and check for any oil leaks, coolant leaks, and unusual smells in and around the engine including underneath. Look closely at the area between the engine and transmission for oil leaks. If leaking, possible rear main oil seal which is costly to repair due to the engine or transmission having to be removed.

Step 7: Get Vehicle History Report

Step 7 of 7 Check Vehicle History

The final step is to do a VIN check so you can get a complete vehicle history report. Follow the instructions on how to do a free VIN check for accidents and get the vehicle history report.

The complete history report tells you (when available) if the seller has a current lien on the vehicle (finance owing), any accident history, and other important information that you need to know before making a final buying decision and handing over your hard-earned cash.

Also, when you have decided to purchase a used car you can use the forms to check and record the seller’s identification particulars.

Do I Need An OBD Scanner When Buying A Used Car?

Yes, it is highly recommended to have an OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) scanner when buying a used car. An OBD scanner allows you to access the diagnostic system of the vehicle and retrieve valuable information about its health and condition.

Here are a few reasons why an OBD scanner is useful when purchasing a used car:

  1. Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs): An OBD scanner can read DTCs stored in the vehicle’s computer system. These codes indicate any underlying issues or malfunctions in various systems of the car, such as the engine, transmission, emissions, and more. By scanning for DTCs, you can uncover any hidden problems that may not be apparent during a regular inspection or test drive.
  2. Vehicle History: The OBD scanner can provide insight into the car’s maintenance and repair history. It can show whether any codes were previously cleared, suggesting that certain issues might have been fixed temporarily to hide problems. By reviewing the stored codes and their history, you can better assess the overall condition and potential reliability of the vehicle.
  3. Emission Readiness: OBD scanners can also check the emission readiness status of the vehicle. This information indicates whether the car’s emissions control system is functioning properly. In some regions, passing an emissions test is required to register or transfer ownership of a vehicle. By checking emission readiness, you can ensure that the car meets the necessary requirements.
  4. Hidden Problems: Sometimes, a used car may exhibit intermittent issues that are difficult to identify during a short test drive. An OBD scanner can help detect these hidden problems by providing real-time data and live sensor readings while the vehicle is running. It can reveal irregularities in engine performance, fuel efficiency, temperature, and other critical parameters.

While an OBD scanner can be a valuable tool, it’s important to note that it does not guarantee that all issues will be uncovered. Some problems may not trigger a diagnostic trouble code, or the codes may have been cleared recently. Therefore, it is still advisable to have a professional mechanic inspect the vehicle thoroughly before making a purchase.

Additionally, ensure that the OBD scanner you choose is compatible with the car’s make, model, and year, as different vehicles may have different OBD protocols and connector types.

If you want to buy an OBD scanner just remember most cheap scan tools only do the engine management system. They don’t include Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) / Airbag, or Transmission System.

It’s important to note, the more expensive OBD2 Scan Tools will run an auto-detect mode when you first connect it to the vehicle accessing the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Should You Get A Pre-Purchase Inspection By A Qualified Mechanic?

If you’re not confident with your DIY check then it’s time to call in the professionals. A final inspection by a qualified mechanic can help you decide whether the investment is worth it. Not only based on the vehicle’s condition but also based on the estimated cost of future repairs. This is helpful when negotiating with the seller. A qualified and experienced person can also provide you with a list of any costs for servicing and any immediate or future repairs required. You can then use this amount to deduct from the car’s private party value so you know exactly how much the car is worth.

Pay What The Car Is Worth?

For example, The brakes may be at the end of their service life. An oil leak could mean that there is a need for some engine repairs soon or even worse you could have signs of water in the engine oil – a blown head gasket. You can use this list for negotiation with the seller. Also, it helps you make a better decision about the type of car you should buy. How much you should spend, if you should buy a new or used car, or what extras are worth investing in?

Should I buy a new or used car? One of the biggest questions asked by car buyers. Here we crunch the numbers and what to consider with a 3rd option.

Is It Better To Buy A New Or Used Car?

Financial decisions are usually made easier if you’re buying from your emotions – who wouldn’t want that new car smell, full auto manufacturers factory warranty, extended warranties, and of course, the bragging rights that go along with buying a new car but stop!

Don’t dive in yet and splurge out on a new car until you have crunched the numbers and know which is the right way to go economically & represents the best value for money. Also, this article will help if you’re asking yourself, will buying a car help my credit score?

To highlight the differences, have a look at this old chart but still relevant today that I found over at Yahoo Autos compiled by Liza Barth Consumer showing the cost differential in the car market from a new vehicle to a used vehicle and what is a good deal.

To crunch the numbers, we looked at the deals that were offered for a few popular 2012-model-year (MY) sedans and SUVs and compared them to the used-car pricing for the same model from 2010 and 2008. In some cases, with a slight increase in the auto loan monthly payment, you can get a new car without the used car mileage and with a full manufacturer’s warranty. Click here to view full article & chart

New Car Depreciation Costs V’s Used Car Maintenance?

Ok, you might think, well, the little bit extra in car loan payments as the chart illustrates, I can get that new car. But do your research and factor in the weekly/monthly running costs & this includes, car payment, personal finance interest rates (from lenders like banks or credit unions), car insurance rates, and car depreciation costs, which is more for a new car in the first year of ownership.

On the other hand, when buying a used car you need to factor in more for maintenance costs because the previous owner will not have usually put back everything they have taken – meaning the tires may have 20% tread left, engine oil change due (scheduled service), or brake pads are 80% worn, so they will need replacing sooner with a used car purchase. Before purchasing a used car factor in any upcoming servicing and repairs to determine what the car is worth.

So, Is It Better To Get A New Car Or Used Car?

It may appear that a new or slightly used car if it’s a demonstrator model could be the choice for convenience due to good used cars being hard to come by. But as you can see the cost is significantly higher on most popular makes and models when you factor in the car depreciation when you drive out of the showroom. If losing hundreds or thousands of dollars doesn’t worry you and you can’t get past the 3 pros of buying a new car being:

  • New car smell
  • Warranty
  • Bragging rights

then go for it.

The Best Of Both Worlds – Near-New Car At A Used Car Price

This 3rd option may be worth considering. Trying to find the best cheap used car that fits your needs and wants without having to keep stretching your budget is frustrating. So, this 3rd option may be worth considering. Check out government auto auctions. You can check out the recently sold prices near you to see if you can save money on different make and model vehicles, also, prestige ones too like these BMW auction prices. These vehicles usually have the following;

  • Low miles
  • Good maintenance record
  • Good Interior

Watch the video and learn how to find a government car auction near you. You can also search 4,000+ auctions USA-wide from the comfort of your lounge room to find good quality cheap near-new cars.


To buy a used car without knowing the car buying process and what to check on a used car is dangerous. Also, paying a professional to get a mechanical inspection on every car you’re interested in is costly too. So, before calling the experts it’s a good idea to grab this free “Used Car Buying Guide & Tools” by mechanic and vehicle inspection specialist Craig Jones. You can narrow down your short list of cars you’re interested in yourself. Knowing what to avoid when buying a used car will save you time, and money and stop you from buying a lemon or getting ripped off.

The used car checklist & other tools keep you street-wise when car shopping. It shows you what to look for & how to do the necessary checks including paperwork. Get started below, find a mechanically sound used car & protect yourself in the buying process.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth buying a new car in 2022?

Believe it or not, buying a brand new car in 2022 can help you save money in the long run. Not only do you get a discounted price but you also avoid paying for expensive repairs since it is still under warranty. So if something breaks down, the cost will be covered by the warranty.

What to do if you decide to buy a used car?

A smart thing to do after you decide to buy a used car is to save about $30 per week in a separate bank account for car servicing and repairs. This will give you peace of mind knowing you have the money for any emergency repairs. Unlike a brand-new car, you may not have a manufacturer’s warranty. Also, learn what to look for when buying a used car so you don’t buy a lemon.

Should I buy a used car from a dealership?

There are many reasons why someone might want to buy a used car from a dealer. For example, the dealership may offer a warranty for certified pre-owned cars. But some disadvantages come with buying from the dealership. For example, you will not be able to negotiate on the price as much as if you were buying from a private seller. So if you’re looking for a bargain you may want to try buying privately from car online sites, like Craigslist, or buying from government car auctions. In conclusion, it is ultimately up to the individual’s needs and preferences which option they choose.

What Is Good Mileage for a Used Car?

Around 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year. This depends on how the car has been serviced and if regular replacement items have been carried out. Japanese vehicles tend to be more robust, especially in the engine and drive-line components. Remembering mechanical things can be fixed but there are certain manufacturers to stay away from when vehicles reach high miles. this is mainly due to the cost of parts and labor to fix. It pays to play the worst-case scenario game and price some parts first before buying say European vehicles.

How do you not get ripped off when buying a used car?

1. Sight the vehicle identification number (VIN) stamped into the body or on the chassis of the vehicle.
2. Always use the VIN from the vehicle itself (not from vehicle labels, plates, or documentation the seller has given you) to get a complete vehicle history report before purchasing.
3. Sight the engine number on the engine itself
4. Using the buyer’s and seller’s receipt forms included in the Free Car Buying Made Easy Tool Kit record all vehicle details and seller’s details
5. Make sure the seller is the person who owns the car by checking the details on all ownership papers, registration papers, and other necessary paperwork for buying a used car like the transfer of ownership.