The process of buying a used car is like driving in the dark. Trying to reach the destination with limited vision makes it difficult to judge oncoming speed and potential hazards. Similarly, you may find the perfect used car of your dream, but how do you know if it will not cause any problems down the road?

With proper research and inspection skills, you can find the reliable car of your dreams. To help you take the overwhelm out of this process, we asked our purchasing team for the techniques they swear by when buying used vehicles for the store. To help you identify the potential problems, our experts have shared this simple inspection checklist to
follow when buying a used car:


Conduct the evaluation in broad daylight. Night lights can make the car surface look polished and conceal any defects.

1. Body

Take a closer look at the panels, roof, and paint on the car. Look for the presence of any dents, cracks, and rust. Rust can be problematic in the future, so watch out for visible rust or paint chips on the surface. Check the alignment of the body panels. Any misalignment or wide gaps can be a sign of a bad repair job. Make sure the paint is even across the car’s surface. Inspect rubber seals and trims for paint marks, tearing, or any other wear issues. The last step is to open and close all the doors, trunk, and hood. Smooth opening and closing of the doors means there is no problem. But, if it seems loose around the hinges, the car could have been used recklessly or possibly have been in an accident.

2. Tires

Tires reflect an in-depth history of the vehicle. Examine the sidewalls of each tire for wear, cracks, scuffing, bulges, and the wheels for any scratches. Also, ensure that the tread wear is even across
all wheels and ask if they have been regularly rotated. Uneven wear or tread on the tires can indicate poor alignment, often caused by steering, suspension, or brake issues. Different tire brands are a major red flag.

Light & lenses

Ensure all lights are in working condition, including turn signals, high beams, and reverse lights. Lightlenses and reflectors need to be free of cracks, moisture, or any other damage.


Ensure the windshield is free of cracks and any marred areas


The car interiors are as important as the exterior since most of the commute time is spent inside.

1. Odor

A moldy or damp smell is a sign of a possible water leak. Lift the floor mats and look for water spots. Conduct similar checks in the trunk. Be wary of musty, smoky odors as they are tough to

2. Seats

Check all the seats for any wear and tear. Try sitting on the front, back, and driving seats. Ensure the seating adjustments are comfortable and work smoothly.

3. Pedals

The wear on the clutch, brake, and gas pedals indicates the intensity of use. Too much damage on the rubber pedal means the car is driven extensively.

4. Roof

Check the roof trims for any signs of water leaks or ill-fittings. In the case of sunroofs, operate them and confirm they open and seal properly. For a convertible rooftop, make sure it is free of
holes and tears.

5. Instruments, controls, sound systems

Turn on the ignition without switching the engine on. All the lights on the ignition panel should illuminate for a few seconds before turning off. Ensure the check engine light turns off once the
car is started. Play around the electronics panel. Change some radio channels, test the heating, and air conditioning units.

Under the Hood

The engine is the heart of the vehicle. Pop the hood and examine the overall condition of the car engine. Watch out for oil splats, corrosion, and loose hoses or wires.

1. Hoses & Belts

Inspect the rubber hoses connecting to the radiator, air conditioner, and other parts for any cracks, holes, or strains. Press the hoses to make sure they are firm and agile.

2. Radiator

Watch out for greenish, orange stains on the radiator. These stains indicate a possible leak. A milky or rusty-looking coolant is a sign of concern too.

3. Fluids

Inspect the oil and transmission dipsticks for any signs of discoloration. Transmission fluid should be pink or red, and oil light brown. Power steering and brake oils should be within safe levels.

Test Drive

Observe the time it takes to start the car and if it makes any strange rattling noises. Try to drive the car on different roads and terrains to test its acceleration, braking, maneuverability, and transmission. Any
shakes, vibrations, or noises are signs of problems.

Vehicle History

Vehicle Identification Number

With the help of a VIN number, get a Vehicle History Report. Services like CARFAX give an insight into the car’s history, any accidents, liens, severe repairs, and recalls.

Book a professional inspection with a certified mechanic to identify any underlying technical problems. A thorough diagnosis will ensure that the car is trouble-free, but it comes with an extra expense. Buying the right used car is not that difficult when you choose a reliable dealership that offers vehicle and financing options to suit your budget. At 5 Star Dealers, we not only carry a wide range of certified pre-owned cars but we are also recognized Ontario-wide for our exceptional customer service. With over 400+ quality vehicles in stock, all our cars are professionally inspected and safety certified. If you are ready for your new car, contact us today!