A used car

How to inspect

Inspect every panel, roof, and the paint finish for scratches, dents, rust, or misalignment, as they may suggest factory assembly issues  or poor repairs. Ensure uniform paint color and finish across all  body panels. 

Exterior:  Body Condition

Interior: Seats

Test all seats, even if you won't use the rear ones. Look for minimal wear or tears,  especially in low-mileage cars. Check seat adjustments for proper functionality and ensure you can find a comfortable driving position. 

Check the car's levelness and  shock absorbers by pushing  down on each corner; it should rebound just once. Test the front tires for play or clunking sounds when tugged, which could indicate issues with wheel bearings or suspension joints. 

Exterior:  Suspension

Interior: Instruments  and Controls

Turn on the ignition without starting the engine. Ensure all warning lights, including the check-engine light, briefly illuminate and then turn off  upon engine start. Observe  cold start performance and  idle smoothness.

Tires reveal a lot about a car.  For low-mileage cars, original tires should typically suffice. Beware of low-mileage cars with new tires; ensure all four tires are the same brand, and inquire about  any replacements. 

Exterior:  Tires

Interior: Odor

A musty, moldy, or mildewy  smell could indicate water leaks. Remove the floor mats and check for wet spots on the carpet.  An acrid smell may indicate that the car was used by a smoker. Some odors, such as mold and smoke, can be very hard to  get rid of.