Checklist for Buying a Used Vehicle

OK….it’s time to replace that vehicle.  Now you ask:  should I buy a new or used vehicle?  New provides that weird smell (that seems to last for a long, long time), a bumper-to-bumper warranty, and the assurance that nobody has owned or regularly used the vehicle before.  But new also provides a heftier price tag than used.  So if you decide to seek savings and buy used how do you protect yourself?  Read the following tips and save them for future reference. 

□ Review Consumer Reports Buying Guide, Car and Driver magazine, Consumer Guide Automotive magazine, Motor Trend magazine, or another similarly reputable source in learning about your vehicle.

□ Avoid Internet-only sales or other transactions where you do not see the vehicle in person prior to purchase.

□ Obtain the VIN on the vehicle.  If you can visit the lot and view the vehicle write down the VIN from the VIN plate that is engraved on the vehicle.  If not obtain the VIN from the seller.

□ Purchase a full Autocheck vehicle history report or Carfax report for the vehicle.

□ Research websites such as,, in negotiating the vehicle price.

□ Investigate vehicle financing through your bank or financial institution and weigh this versus any seller-offered financing.

□ Ask the seller for all vehicle service and maintenance records. 

□ If buying from an individual, demand to see the original vehicle title prior to purchase.

□ Hire a mechanic or vehicle inspector to check the vehicle. Have the inspector provide you with a written inspection report and use it in your negotiations with the seller.   

□ Get all promises and statements of repairs, warranties, and vehicle service in writing.

□ Have the seller state in writing if the vehicle has ever been salvaged, flood damaged, reconstructed, or damaged in a collision.  If any of these apply try to get the seller to provide in writing the date of each incident and the cost incurred to repair the vehicle for each.

□ If you are dealing with a vehicle dealer, ask for at least a 30-day warranty from the dealer.  Get a written warranty signed by the seller specifically identifying all vehicle systems that are covered.  Note that a warranty between you and the dealer typically has a different cost, coverage, and legal significance than a vehicle service contract between you and a third party.

□ If you buy a vehicle “as is”, strongly consider getting an extended warranty.

□ Once you have struck a deal be sure to have a written sales contract signed by you and the seller that lists the following:  full names, addresses, and phone numbers for you and the seller(s); vehicle year, make, model, color, and VIN number; date of purchase; odometer reading; purchase price, down payment made, all taxes and fees paid (and by whom), amount of finance charges, interest rate, deferred payment amounts and time and schedule for such payments plus to whom they will be made, and all other financing terms.




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