Used Car Inspection

How to Inspect a
Used Car With a Walk Around

How to inspect a used car with the walk around...
The 1st of 8 steps in the used car inspection guide.

The first step to your used car inspection is a general walk around of the car. As simple as this may seem, a lot can be learned about a car with this simple procedure.

One of the most important keys to performing used car buying inspections, including the walk around, is to inspect a car in the day time and with good weather.

If you were to find a great vehicle that you wanted to buy and it happened to be night time, rainy, snowing, etc., then place a *refundable* deposit on the vehicle and inspect it the next day.

I've had customers go so far as to request, not only a day time inspection, but they wanted to wash the car by hand.

I know, when I first heard this I thought it was a little weird too. After giving it some thought, I realized this is actually an excellent way to inspect a car for body and flood damage.

Car Walk
Around Inspection

Start by taking a wide sweep of the car, look for:

  • Obvious signs of damage.

  • An unnatural lean to one side or the other.

  • Off set wheels. Does one side stick out further than the other?

  • Take a look down the sides of the vehicle while moving your head from side to side.
    • Are there creases?
    • Dents and Dings?
    • Any wavy panels?

  • Any mismatched paint.

  • A trailer hitch or signs one was there. Especially important for smaller engine vehicles like four cylinders.

Closer Look

At this point in your used car inspection it's time to move a little closer and put your hands on the car.

Run your hand down each side and over the top of the hood, roof and trunk on both sides. Pay attention to any differences in texture, dents, dings, cracks in the paint and rust.

A difference in texture can be an indication of prior bodywork. Take a close look and read the bodywork section below for more info.

If you find that a vehicle has a lot of small little dents/dings, it may be a sign of hail damage. When I worked in Texas we had over 25% of our inventory totaled out by one hail storm.

Read Between The Lines

Now it's time to take a look at the lines. The lines are simply the space between panels on the vehicle.

For instance, the small gaps between the trunk and the fenders on the left and right side or on the hood and the doors.

You'll want to be sure there are no obvious discrepancies here. If the gap on the left side of the hood is 1/8 of an inch and the right side is over 1 inch, this is a sign the hood has been replaced. It's no guarantee, but it warrants a closer inspection.

How's The Rubber?

One of the first items dealers check when performing their car buying inspection is to check the tires.

Are they:

  • The same brand?

  • Worn down?

    Tires can be expensive...feel the tread with your fingers.

  • Wearing evenly?

    Not only comparing each tire, but is the tire itself wearing evenly? If the inside of the tire is bald and the outside appears near new, then there is either a suspension problem or the vehicle needs an alignment.

  • Do the miles match the wear?

    If the vehicle has only 10,000 miles, but needs new tires, then imagine how someone may have driven it.

  • Check all exterior lights.

  • Check convertible top for tears, dry rot or fading.

Now that you've completed the walk around inspection,
What would you like to do next?

Move On To Step 2>
Paint & Bodywork

Or you can...

Review the entire Used Car Inspection guide by returning from -
Car Walk Around to Used Car Inspection main page

Go to Insider Car Buying Tips home

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