Buying a used car – the ultimate car history checklist

September 21, 2021 by Zoe Hicks – 8 mins read

Pre-Purchase Inspection entails thoroughly inspecting the exterior body and operation of all components of the car you intend to purchase for flaws or drawbacks and determining whether or not it is a good buy. It can be performed by you, a mechanic, or pre-purchase inspection service.

Pre-Purchase Inspection entails thoroughly inspecting the exterior body and operation of all components of the car you intend to purchase for flaws or drawbacks and determining whether or not it is a good buy. It can be performed by you, a mechanic, or pre-purchase inspection service.

A Pre-Purchase Inspection is the most important step in purchasing a used car because it allows you to determine whether the vehicle you intend to purchase is in good working order. To be honest, you don’t want to end up spending a lot of money on maintenance and repairs on a new car.

The All-Inclusive Checklist

Here is a comprehensive checklist of some points you can perform manually to perform a Pre-Purchase Inspection of a Used Car:

1. Examine the vehicle for blemishes or paint jobs.

Inspect the vehicle in broad daylight to ensure that you can see every inch of the exterior. Any differences in the paint coat indicate that the car has had scuffs and scratches repainted, but make sure to check if it has been in any major accidents and has had certain parts replaced.

2. Thoroughly examine the operation of the electronics.

Let’s start with the simple stuff, like the electrical system. Check that the electrical equipment responds to all commands. The indicators, external fold-down mirrors, music system, power windows, and so on should all function properly. Also, make sure the air conditioner works properly on a hot summer day.

3. Examine for Leaks and Battery Issues

Examine the area around the battery terminal for signs of wear and tear. After a thorough test drive, park the car and wait for up to 30 minutes to check for leaks.

4. During the test drive, keep an ear out for any noises.

Turn off the music system, open the windows, and listen for any noises coming from the car during the first part of the test drive. It could indicate a problem with the suspension or another component.

5. Inspect the engine for any problems.

The engine should not make any knocking noises, as this indicates a problem with the vehicle. It should also not misfire, as indicated by a loss of acceleration when pressing the peddle or dashboard vibrations. If you notice any kind of smoke coming from the back of the car, you should have the engine inspected by a professional.

6. Check the Brakes

Don’t be afraid to break aggressively and test the brakes. Your life is dependent on the brakes, and you want to ensure that they are in perfect working order.

7. Tyre Condition

Check that the tyres are in good condition and have deep enough threads. If the rubber on your tyres begins to wear out, you can at the very least negotiate a lower car price.

8. Carefully examine the Odometer Reading.

Examine the vehicle’s odometer carefully. Odometer tampering is a common practice, and if the readings don’t correspond to the car’s condition, you should contact the regular car service center for more information.

9. Vehicle Maintenance History

Inquire with the owner about any repair work done on the vehicle, as well as the car’s service book, which will provide you with a detailed history of the vehicle’s maintenance.

10. Steering Control

Steering is always going to be the most important part of driving, and when it comes to steering in used cars, checking it out is a great thing to have on your checklist. Check that it isn’t too heavy, misaligned, or simply uncomfortable. Even a perfectly good and functional car can be an unsuitable match. 

11. Legal Papers

To ensure a completely legal transfer of the car to your name, ensure that the following documents are transferred to or received by you:


This document confirms that you have completed the registration process.

The original RC should be renamed after you. This is the legal proof that ownership of the car has been transferred to you.


The insurance must also be transferred to your name for you to be able to claim it in the event of an emergency. To ensure a smooth RC transaction, ensure that the insurance is valid for at least another month.


If the car loan has already been paid off, request the NOC or the Loan Repayment and Foreclosure Statement.


Another important document to have in your possession is the vehicle’s original purchase invoice.

Services for Pre-Purchase Inspection

The above checklist can be time-consuming to complete, especially if you are unfamiliar with cars. Furthermore, even if you are a car enthusiast, you are probably unaware of all the problems that plague various car components. What you can do is delegate the task to professionals who can handle it for you.

There are two approaches you can take. To begin, you can bring your mechanic, who will inspect the vehicle and notify you of any flaws. But first, you must go through the agony of locating a mechanic. Check out the mechanic’s credentials because the safety of the used car is crucial to your family and your own life. You can always go with the easier option of hiring a pre-purchase inspection service from the comfort of your own home.

Putting a Used Car to the Test

Getting the most out of your used car buying checklist isn’t just about how the car looks. There’s only so much you can learn from looking at a car, especially if you’re not a professional or have little experience with automobiles in general. To take it a step further, there are some questions you should ask yourself about the car and while driving it. They’re not out of the ordinary, but they’re good to keep in mind.

1. Does it begin correctly?

Is your vehicle starting right away? Consider how the car behaves when you turn the key in the ignition and whether it struggles to start. If it’s in trouble, that’s never a good sign.

2. Does it come to a halt or brake?

Brakes can save your life. They are critical to your safety and the safety of others while driving. Most vehicles take years to complete, but you don’t want to be caught off guard if you’re buying. Brake replacement is not always a cheap job.

3. Is it Sounding Healthy?

Finally, in your used car buying checklist, don’t overlook another useful tool: your sense of hearing. The sounds emitted by a car can reveal a lot about its condition. If something sounds strange, unexplained, or just plain wrong, don’t be afraid to disregard it. It could be nothing, but it could also be much worse.

The last and final tip on your used car buying checklist is to look behind the scenes, in addition to everything you see in person. Car checks and history checks, in particular, are critical for learning the entire story about a vehicle before purchasing it. Without it, it’s impossible to know what a car has been through, and this is responsible for more than you think.

Documents to be verified while buying used car:

The documentation that comes with the car you are purchasing also has a lot to offer you. You need the V5 to change ownership, for example (which must be replaced if it is missing when you exchange the vehicle). The service history is also useful and can reassure you that you’re making a sound decision.

Financial Background

Checks on car finance are also necessary to ensure that your vehicle is legally paid off and will not cause you any problems in this regard. Even if you buy a car outright, it could be taken from you if it is ex-finance or only partially paid off. If possible, have this checked.

Criminal Record

On the same level as finance, the criminal history of your vehicle can cause problems. There are records if the car you’re buying has been used in a crime or even stolen. The last thing you need is for your car to be investigated, or even confiscated if necessary. This also applies to cloned vehicles.

MOT Service History

Finally, there’s the traditional MOT test. Every year, this is the iconic way to check in on what’s been going on while your car is getting its MOT. That means there’s a report on anything wrong with the car if it’s missed any MOTs. All of these will have a significant impact on the car while you own it, so choose your information wisely.

There’s only so much you can do when buying a car for yourself, but all of the points on our used car checklist will point you in the right direction and help you avoid buying something that might be a mistake. Every car is unique, as is what it has to offer. You’ll never know whether a car is a good value for money until you put it through its paces, but these will help you regardless.


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MOT History Checker
MOT History Checker
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