Printable used car buying checklist

▢ Decide which vehicle to buy

Pick closely between brand, body style, age and other factors. Use Edmunds or KBB for user and editor reviews.

▢ Search multiple car buying websites (in order of preference)

Private party: Craigslist, and AutoTrader
Dealer:, AutoTrader, local dealership websites (used car inventory pages), CarMax, Carvana

▢ Assess and evaluate prices

Compare prices against values from Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds and NadaGuides

▢ See vehicle history reports

Get the VIN (vehicle identification number) from AutoFax, CarFax or AutoCheck and check the vehicle's history (especially title and usage status)

▢ Schedule and do a through test drive

  1. Before you test drive, test the a/c and heater, sound system and dashboard electronics and the overall ergonomics of the car.
  2. Make sure you drive for a few miles atleast on both inner roads and freeways.
  3. Don't play radio while driving - instead listen for any unusual sounds from the engine, brakes, etc.

▢ Questions to ask private party sellers

  1. Why are you selling the car?
  2. Do you have the maintenance records?
  3. Can I have my mechanic inspect the car?
  4. Do you think the car would need any work in the next 1 year (tires, brakes, etc)?

▢ Documents required and signing process

If you buy a used car at a dealer, most of the process is handled by the dealer for you - although you will pay for this convenience in terms of dealer fees, etc. If you purchase a care from a private party, here are the steps
  1. Car inspection: Most states require a car inspection before you can register on your name. Also, some states allow you to return the car to the buyer if it fails inspection - if your state doesn't have this law, it might be better to have the owner with you while you get the car inspected before paying the buyer.
  2. Original Title: Make sure the owner signs and fills the ownership information in front of you.
  3. Pay the seller: Usually this is with a bank cheque drawn in front of the seller - alternatively you can pay cash (not recommended if the transaction is above $5,000). Make sure you do this transaction in a public place like a bank or a popular coffee shop.
  4. Bill of sale: Usually more important for seller than buyer but good to have a copy.

▢ Register the car on your name

It is recommended that you register the car at the DMV immediately to avoid any suprises with tolls, parking charges etc. You will generally need your car inspection sticker, title and your insurance.