Buying a used car mandates at least a visual inspection. There are a lot of things that can be wrong with a car because you do not know how it was maintained, what hidden issues it may have, or if you need to invest money into different consumables.
The first thing you should check when you are buying a used car is how the car starts. Just turn the car on and pay attention to the engine. Listen for unusual noises. If the car starts without any issue, the engine should be in good running condition.
2. Car AC and Heater
With the engine on, you should check the AC and the heater. You want to have the climate system working properly because it can be expensive to fix. You would not want to have a car that is unable to blow cool air during the summer or that cannot heat the cabin during the winter. If the AC and heater do not work, negotiate with the dealer to have them fixed before buying it. Some dealers may not tell you the car has a problem with the AC. If that is the case, you need to negotiate the car price to include the repair.
Another thing you need to check on the car is the transmission. Take the car for a drive. If it is an automatic transmission, pay close attention to how it shifts and low and high speeds. If you feel that the transmission is stuttering or shifts through gears brutally, something may be wrong. It is not worth buying a car with a bad transmission since it will cost thousands to fix it.
For a manual car, check how the car shifts. If there is a problem with a manual transmission, it is much cheaper to fix. Also, even if the clutch is worn out, it will still be cheaper to fix than an automatic.
You may overlook this but you should check the tires when you are buying a used car. They should have a tread depth of at least 2/32 of an inch. There are wear indicators in the tire places in the threads. If the tires are worn out, you may have to invest a couple of hundred dollars into new ones.
How worn the tires are is not the only thing you should look out for. If the tires are worn more on the inner side or vice versa, you may have some other underlying issues. The car may need an alignment or may have problems with lower control arms.
The breaks should have a high priority when buying a used car. Having worn out rotors and brake pads is an easy fix but it will cost you at least $100. It is not a considerable extra cost but it is worth keeping in mind when negotiating the price with the dealer.
What you should pay attention to is how the car brakes. Check how the car behaves when braking. It should be predictable and break the same every time you press the brake pedal. This should be checked during a short 15-20 minute test drive.