What to Look For When Buying a Used Car

different colored sports cars lined up on a dealership lot with colorful flags hanging over them

The used car market can be a whole new world compared to buying new. But rest assured, once you know what to look for when buying a used car, the process gets a whole lot easier.

What things should you look for when buying a used car? Take a look at this comprehensive used car checklist to find out.

Check for a Clean Car History

One of the most important things to look for when buying a used car is a clean vehicle history report. The history of a vehicle affects the value of a used car more than just about any single factor.
the words car history written above a puzzle

Start by looking up the VIN number to see that it matches up with the VIN information in the vehicle title records. The VIN will also tell you if there have been any safety recalls on the vehicle.

Follow up with a vehicle history report. The vehicle history report can reveal title problems, ownership history, service records, and any reported previous accidents.

hand and a digital holograph of a finger print

Check the Seller Has a Verified Identity

Found a used car to buy directly from the seller? Excellent news! You get lots of car buying benefits by cutting out dealership middlemen. But when you buy a used car directly from a seller, you need to be confident that that person really is who they say they are.
Ask to see proof of photographic ID. Or alternatively, use a used car buying platform like Motobyo where all buyers’ and sellers’ identities are verified as standard procedure.

Check That the Exterior Has Been Well Maintained

How do you inspect a used car exterior? Go armed with a flashlight and eagle eyes, and pay particular attention to:

Body condition

Are there any scratches or dents? Minor scratches and dents are unlikely to cause too many problems. But deep scratches and significant dents are unsightly and do affect the value of a vehicle.
person assessing a dent and scratch on their vehicle's bumper
Also look out for body panels that don’t line up, doors that don’t open and close easily, and any mismatched paint colors. Any of these issues suggests that the car has had previous body repairs.


Do the lights all work as they should? Ask the seller to put the car into reverse, put their foot on the brake, and turn on the headlights so you can check that all of the car’s lights are in proper working order.


The US Department of Transportation recommends replacing tires when the tread reaches 2/32”. Check out the tread depth on all tires so you get an idea of how soon you’ll need new ones. Also check the overall physical condition of the tires: do they have any bubbles or dry rotting between the treads?

tires lined up on a shelf in a warehouse
picture of undercarriage of a vehicle

Leaks or stains under car

Don’t just look at the car itself. Look at the road underneath the car too. Use a flashlight if necessary. If you see any leaks, puddles, or stains, you need to take a closer look.

Found a puddle of clear water? There’s probably no need to worry. This is almost certainly just condensation from the air conditioner.

However, if the puddle has a colored tinge to it, this may be a sign of a more serious problem.

The car could be leaking fuel, oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, or coolant. And all of these leaks require the attention of a trained auto mechanic.

Confirm that the interior is in good condition

Wondering what interior features to check when buying a used car? Be sure to look out for the following.


Give the car a good sniff to see if there are any distinctive odors inside. Cigarette smoke, pets, spilled food, and even the rainwater that came in through an open car window can all create unpleasant smells inside a vehicle — and all are difficult to remove.

woman holding her nose in a stinky car


Take a look at the seats and the upholstery. Are there any tears or marks? Check that all seatbelts fasten properly, too.

Infotainment & speakers

Switch on the infotainment system, play around with any GPS features, and turn on the radio to see that the sound system operates properly.
woman test driving a vehicle with a sales man

Check That the Car Drives Well

You should always test drive a used car before you buy. To get a real idea of the car and how it runs, get behind the wheel and:
  • Look to see whether any dashboard warning lights appear as you switch on the ignition
  • Drive with the stereo off so you can listen to the car
  • Drive at city and highway speeds
  • Drive along a bumpy road and listen out for rattles or squeaks
  • Check that you can drive the car in a straight line
  • Check that the brakes work properly and don’t make any worrying noises
  • Drive for at least 15 minutes if possible

Check that it gets a mechanic’s seal of approval

Don’t know your gasket from your crankshaft? Then letting a trained auto mechanic take a look at the car is a good idea.

Ask the seller whether you can get the car inspected at an auto shop of your choice to find out whether there are any underlying issues with the vehicle.

At Motobyo, a certified, independent, third-party used car inspection comes as standard.

mechanic holding two socket wrenches
You can read inspection notes and see detailed photographs, along with a quote for any repairs required, right in the car listing.

Check That You Can Get Service Contract

picture of a service contract

However confident you are in a used car, having a quality extended service contract offers extra peace of mind.

With a service contract (commonly referred to as an “extended warranty”) in place, you know that if the vehicle experiences any covered mechanical breakdowns during the specified time period, you don’t have to pay out of pocket for costly repairs.

Again, this is something you can arrange easily when you buy a car through Motobyo.

Check That You Can Get Affordable Auto Insurance

It’s important to consider all of the costs involved in car ownership. So check out insurance rates for this make, model, and year of car for you, in your location.
2 white cars and 1 yellow car drawn in chalk under the words auto insurance
You guessed it! Motobyo can do this too. Simply click on auto insurance within a vehicle listing to get an easy, instant auto insurance quote.

Motobyo: The Easier Way to Buy A Used Car

Here at Motobyo, we know all the ways that a used car could let you down. That’s why we built a used car buying platform that helps buyers to avoid every single one.
motobyo logo
From vehicle inspections to verified seller identities, service contract quotes to car history reports, we have you covered so you can buy your ideal used car in confidence.
Ready to find your new set of wheels? Check out the cars currently up for auction with Motobyo.