How to Check a New Car Before You Buy It | YourMechanic Advice

How to Check a New Car Before You Buy It

Once you’ve decided on a car to buy and found financing, it’s now time to conduct a final inspection of your chosen vehicle. Bring a notebook or smartphone with you to the inspection appointment and write down any details or numbers given to you. During the inspection and final test drive, you’ll want to look out for quite a few factors, which are listed in the steps below.

Part 1 of 1: Inspect your vehicle

Step 1: Examine a car with salesperson. Have a salesperson show you all different the functions and options in your new vehicle.

Step 2: Investigate mileage. Usually, new cars should only have roughly 25 miles (40km) or below logged on them.

If the mileage is above this number, ask a salesperson. Sometimes, it is from the short trip to the lot.

revealed sedan engine

Step 3: Check under the hood. Examine the engine bay’s cleanliness and organization and its vital functions.

  • Tip: Ask the salesperson or refer the the vehicle’s manual to determine where your car’s ECU is located.

Step 4: Inspect the battery. If the battery does not display its health, have its health verified by the salesperson.

Step 5: Examine the exterior. Examine your new vehicle’s exterior work, noting any dings or imperfections.

Point out any imperfections before you test drive or further inspect. This will be more likely to result in a complimentary fix.

Step 6: Examine the tires. Do a check on the tires to make sure they are in new condition.

If you are not sure about this, verify the condition of the tires with a salesperson.

larger than average car door gap

Step 7: Inspect doors. Verify that doors open and close smoothly.

You’ll also want to ensure that the all rubber edges of doors are consistent and soft.

Step 8: Examine the body parts. Check that the car’s exterior parts fit together nicely and that there are not any joint issues.

In general, all gaps and seams should be as even and smooth as possible.

wiper parallel with scratches

Step 9: Inspect all windows and the windshield. Triple check and make sure the windshield and windows do not have any blemishes.

Step 10: Verify that wipes and windows work. Test the wipes and rolling/power windows to make sure they are not broken or need repairs.

car seats ripping at the seems

Step 11: Carefully examine the car’s interior. Examine the upholstery, carpets, and soft surfaces of the car’s interior to ensure they are free of any stains or ripping.

Every fabric should be strong and without wear, so examine every seat, nook, and cranny.

hand adjusting dial from blue to red

Step 12: Test the climate control. Make sure to test both the air conditioning and heating systems to ensure they are operating properly.

If your car comes with heated seats, be sure to test those as well.

Step 13: Test your horn. Test your horn to ensure it operates timely and properly.

Step 14: Test your lights. Test your headlights, including your high beams and blinkers, and ensure the light bulbs and electrical systems are functioning correctly.

Don’t forget to make sure the headlights focus efficiently.

Step 15: Test other bells and whistles. This is a great time to test all the other bells and whistles that came with your car.

Test any entertainment, radio or GPS functions that can be adjusted from the control panel.

Step 16: Test the engine. Turn the engine on, using your key unless otherwise instructed by your salesperson or vehicle manual.

Keep an eye out on the dash for warning lights and your fuel level.

man listening for engine noise

Step 17: Crank the engine. Turn your engine on and crank the engine.

Keep your ears open for any unexpected or inconsistent noises coming from the engine bay both while driving and parked.

Step 18: Check emissions. Take note of any oddities in the emission, bringing them to the salesperson’s attention.

Step 19: Conduct a test drive. Talk to your salesperson ahead of time to request a short test drive prior to delivery of your vehicle.

When test driving, listen for any abnormalities.

Make sure you don’t hear any rattles, noise, vibration, or harshness in sound levels. Test shifting gears, and look out for a comfortable and efficient acceleration.

Step 20: Check under the hood again. Look to make sure nothing has come loose or seems out of the ordinary.

Step 21: Point out concerns. Speak with your salesperson and go over any notes you made during your inspection that raised cause for concern.

Step 22: Verify the chassis number. When reviewing the final paperwork, double check and confirm that the Chassis number on the engine matches your papers.

Getting a new vehicle is an exciting process, but it requires you to be diligent along the way, inspecting your car to make sure it is the condition you expected. Be sure to have one of our mechanics perform a pre-purchase car inspection to get some professional insight into the state of your new car.


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Chris

21 years of experience
1852 reviews
Chris
21 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz SLK280 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Laguna Hills, California
I hired Chris to inspect a car I wanted to purchase. He arrived on time and gave me a very detailed report, took the time to call me after to review details, and share his impression of the car. He was great and very knowledgeable, I would highly recommend him!
Lexus IS250 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Irvine, California
Smooth experience, was able to communicate succinctly and arrived early to the appointment. Thoroughly completed the 50-point check and gave me his professional opinion. His report on the vehicle reflected knowledge on the vehicle, along with giving me his own estimate on the pricing. Definitely helped me with my purchase.

Jason

14 years of experience
222 reviews
Jason
14 years of experience
Honda CR-V - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Flushing, New York
Jason was great, prompt, and extremely helpful! He explained every aspect of his concerns with the car and answered all our questions in detail. Since I don't know much about cars, it was amazing to have someone who explained how things work in a simple but well rounded way. We are so appreciative of his help!
Dodge Charger - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Carteret, New Jersey
Jason came on time, explained the procedure and immediately started the pre-purchase inspection on my 2012 Dodge Charger. Very thorough, very knowledgeable! I’ll be using YourMechanic for the suggested maintenance and repairs.

Anderson

26 years of experience
67 reviews
Anderson
26 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Jamaica, New York
Anderson was great! I was unsure about my purchase because of the year and the condition. Anderson's inspection really put everything into perspective. Thank you!
Land Rover LR4 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Little Neck, New York
Anderson is amazing! A previous mechanic was no-call/no-show through this site when I was at the dealership, so I was skeptical of the service. However, but I'm glad I gave it another go and Anderson came through the next day! HUGE thanks to him for arriving early, being thorough, and most importantly, communicating with me as I was not able to be in-person for the inspection. Thank you, Anderson!

Chuy

13 years of experience
202 reviews
Chuy
13 years of experience
BMW 330i - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Hinsdale, Illinois
Professional. Couldn’t be there to inspect with him and gave me a full detail inspection and his honest opinion ( which I asked for ) did an amazing job.

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