28 August 2023 · Our Blog - Read The Latest Articles

Used Car Inspection Checklist

Used Car Inspection Check List Brisbane

Why a Comprehensive Used Car Inspection Checklist is Important

When it comes to buying a used vehicle, there can be a lot of risks involved for the inexperienced or ill-prepared buyer. Unlike when buying new, you will be purchasing a vehicle that has had at least one previous owner, with a history of maintenance, servicing, and potential accidents and repairs that could affect the vehicle’s condition and how well it will run in the future.  This is particularly the case when buying from a private seller as they are not legally required to disclose any damage or issues that the vehicle may have, and you will be buying the car ‘as is’, meaning once the sale is made, it will be your responsibility to pay for and organise any repairs if a problem occurs.  The best way to reduce this risk is to carry out a thorough inspection and test drive of any used vehicle you are considering purchasing, ideally armed with a comprehensive used car inspection checklist to ensure that nothing is overlooked. It can also be beneficial to have a qualified mechanic look over the vehicle to identify any underlying issues that could end up costing you money in the future. 

What to Look for When Inspecting the Outside of a Used Car

Accident Damage

When inspecting the outside of the vehicle, look for signs of accident damage such as misaligned or mismatched panels, variations in paint colour or overspray, as well as any dents, ripples, creases, or evidence of rust. If the vehicle has been involved in an accident, there is the potential that unseen damage may have been caused to the vehicle, or even poor repairs, that could result in costly repairs in the future.  Some key places to spot accident damage include inside the boot, at the bottom of each door, around the spare tyre, and under carpet mats. 

Damaged Paint

Damaged paint can be another indicator of past damage or poor accident repairs. Check the overall condition of the vehicle’s paintwork, keeping an eye out for any patches or rust. Look for chips and scratches that can give you an indication of how well the vehicle has been looked after, as well as colour variation, rippling, or dents that could be a sign of past damage.  If you’re not sure whether the vehicle has been repainted, look for damaged paint on the bolts under the bonnet, in the door sills, and in the boot area, as this can indicate that the bolts have been removed in order to repair accident damage. 

Doors & Windows

Take the time to fully open and close each door and window of the vehicle, including the boot, and ensure that they each open easily and close securely, with all rubber seals in place and undamaged. 

Exterior Lights

Test all of the exterior lights on the vehicle before test driving to ensure that it is safe to drive, including the headlights, high beams, fog lights, indicators, brake lights, and reverse lights. 

What to Look for When Inspecting the Inside of a Used Car

Upholstery & Carpets

Check the condition of the upholstery and carpets, as this will give a good indication of whether or not the vehicle has been well cared for. Remember to check under any mats and seat covers, looking for any stains, cracks, damage, or wear and tear that may not be consistent with the age of the vehicle. 


All seatbelts must be in working condition for the vehicle to be considered roadworthy, so take the time to latch and unlatch each seatbelt, ensuring that the belt can be extended and retracted smoothly with no undue fading or fraying to the seatbelt material.  If you will be using the vehicle to transport children in car seats, check if and where the anchor points are, and Isofix attachments where applicable, ensuring that they are undamaged and safe to use. 

Interior Lights

Check that the interior lights work when turned on as well as automatically when set to turn on as doors are opened. Additionally, turn the engine on and check that there are no warning lights illuminated on the dashboard.

Accessories & Electrical Devices

Check that all basic vehicle functions are operational, including the windscreen wipers, radio, horn, air conditioner, and demister. Test to see that any additional accessories that were advertised with the vehicle are working as intended, such as satellite navigation, seat warmers, parking sensors, reverse camera, etc.

Emergency Tools

Ensure that a jack and toolkit are included and in good working condition. 

What to Look for When Inspecting the Engine Bay of a Used Car

Verify Engine Numbers

When inspecting the engine bay of a used vehicle, check that the engine number, vehicle identification number (VIN), and body number match the corresponding numbers on the certificate of registration, keeping an eye out for any indication that the numbers have been altered. Additionally, check the car’s build and compliance dates to confirm the date of manufacture is correct.

Clean & Maintained Engine

When inspecting the engine, ensure that it looks clean and well-maintained, as a poorly maintained engine can be an indication of a larger problem. The battery should be clean and securely in place with no acid corrosion. Inspect the condition of the tubes that run between main engine components looking for any discolouration, residue, or signs of cracking. 

Engine Oil & Radiator

Beyond a fully completed and stamped service history, testing the engine oil can be a great way to determine whether or not the engine has been well looked after and regularly serviced.  Check that the oil is full and clean. It may be red or brown in colour if the vehicle has not been recently serviced; however, it should not be black or milky in appearance, as this can be an indication of a serious engine issue. Be sure to recheck the engine oil again after running the engine to ensure that it remains clean.  Similarly, the radiator coolant should be clean and brightly coloured. Check around the radiator for signs of damage, corrosion, or leakage. WARNING: Do not open the radiator cap when the engine is warm. 

What to Look for When Inspecting the Underside of a Used Car


Check that there is no excessive smoke or fumes coming from the exhaust. Black, blue, or white exhaust smoke can be an indicator of a significant engine problem. Additionally, make sure that the exhaust sound isn’t too noisy, listening out for any unexplained sounds, such as knocking or sucking noises which can also be a sign of further engine trouble. 


Check that all tyres, including the spare, are in good condition with sufficient tread all the way to the edge on both sides. Look out for any cracks, damage, or uneven wear, as this can indicate that there may be problems with the vehicle’s steering or suspension.  Do not test drive the vehicle if any of the tyres have tread depth below the minimum indicators, and consider asking for the tyres to be replaced before the sale or, alternatively, negotiating the cost of replacement tyres from the purchase price. 


Check underneath the vehicle for any signs of leaking fluid from the engine, transmission, differential, brakes, power steering, and shock absorbers.  If possible, look where the vehicle is normally parked for signs of oil stains on the ground. Leaking fluid under the vehicle can be an indication that the vehicle has not been well maintained and may soon require repairs.

What to Consider When Test Driving a Used Car

Test driving a used vehicle before purchase is highly recommended, as this can uncover potential problems that cannot be seen while the vehicle is parked. Additionally, it will allow you to get a feel for how the vehicle drives before you buy it.  During your test drive, ensure that the brake pedal feels firm when applied, with the vehicle stopping smoothly without pulling to one side. Listen out for any unusual noises while accelerating, cruising, and decelerating, as this can be a sign of excessive wear. Ensure that the gears change easily while driving, whether the vehicle has a manual or automatic transmission. Look out for any warning lights on the dashboard while operating the vehicle, and keep an eye on the temperature gauge as you drive.  Note: always check that the vehicle is registered, roadworthy, and adequately insured before test driving. 

The Benefits of Purchasing a Toyota Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

Downtown Toyota makes buying a used vehicle easy with our Toyota Certified Pre-Owned (TCPO) Vehicles. All certified vehicles must meet or exceed a strict set of requirements, including vehicle age and distance travelled, as well as pass a comprehensive 90-point check carried out by a qualified Toyota technician. This ensures that the vehicle is in good working quality to give you peace of mind in your purchase. Additionally, all TCPO vehicles come with a full service history, a CarHistory check, a 12-month warranty, and 12 months of free roadside assist. If you’re looking for a reliable used car for sale in Brisbane, look no further than Downtown Toyota. Our team of auto experts are passionate about helping each new customer find the best vehicle for their needs, preferences, and budget. Whether you’re purchasing your first car, upgrading the family vehicle, or looking for affordable luxury, we’ve got you covered. Talk to one of our friendly team members today on 07 3896 0100 or browse our range of available used vehicles online here