Used car checklist

The eye also buys! The AUTOHUB used car checklist! 

You should know this motto of professional sellers! Of course there is no objection to this if used car conditioners with experience and special care products go as far as possible to cover the "traces of the years". But don't let yourself be tempted to equate the sparkling clean exterior impression with an equally fabulous overall condition - without a comprehensive inventory, it can easily turn into a flop.

It is particularly problematic to unmask a so-called "blender", a car that has been precisely prepared so that its numerous defects can hardly be filtered out. In order to still be able to find one or the other “suspicious” clue, experienced car professionals, journalists and car technicians have processed their experiences in this “checklist” and summarized them for you.

The "Checklist" - how to use it
Since a specialist is not always available, especially during a non-binding initial inspection, you should at least be able to sort out absolutely useless items. In addition, take a second person with you: The old wisdom "four eyes see more than two" is always true here.

The list is divided into inspection points and additional explanations. Read through everything beforehand in peace, practice with any object. The aim of looking at your dream car should not only be to find individual defects, our list is rather structured so that you should be able to get an overall impression.

The following can contribute to this:

  • the seller gives an ambiguous impression
  • you noticed concealed defects

So you should be able to recognize at least roughly whether the car was only “beautified” with optical aids so that a super condition is faked.

Buy from a dealer or privately?
The latter is more popular - thanks to a larger range, especially of older models and the lower price level. Of course, buying from the dealer offers more security: regardless of any used vehicle guarantee that may be offered, the dealer is obliged to accept a “material defect liability” for at least 12 months. In the first 6 months, a “reversal of the burden of proof” also applies: if the worst comes to the worst, the dealer would have to prove that the defect was not present when the vehicle was handed over (which is hardly noticeable in practice). The private seller, on the other hand, can expressly exclude liability for material defects in the purchase contract.

Deficiency focuses
Find out in advance. Get an overview of the weak points of the models you are considering. The ADAC provides extensive information on this:

Not without my specialist
Basically, the risk of getting a bad copy can only be reduced by bringing in a specialist, a used car inspection at the ADAC, or the TÜV.

The checklist
Bookmark this page so that you always have the “Used Car Checklist” at hand when the time comes.

The Autohub team wishes you every success in your search
after the new "used".

How is the seller to be assessed?

Your "Used Car Inspection" begins as soon as you contact the seller!

When calling, the other party asks:
"Which car are you interested in?"
Attention! Most likely disguised dealer!

Red license plates installed?
If the car was offered "privately", this usually means that this is not the case, because red license plates belong to professionals in the car trade and are not available to private individuals.

The name of the seller is not identical to the owner entered in the vehicle registration document.
There is a good chance that you are dealing with a disguised dealer. Frequent statement: "Sell the car for a relative / acquaintance". This can be true in individual cases, but caution is advisable. The dealer may only try to avoid liability for defects! If necessary, write down the name (s) of the previous owner (s) for any questions. Never buy without checking the seller's personal details.

Does the seller put you under pressure?
“You have to make a quick decision” - this is a popular salesman trick. Do not allow yourself to be “blackmailed”, think carefully, rather postpone the final decision until the next day. Take the risk that the car will already be sold. The used car markets are overflowing with good offers.

The seller talks to you constantly, distracts you?
Of course there are people who have a great need to communicate, but there can also be intention behind it. Attention!

The seller advises you that there have been a lot of repairs recently?
What sounds really positive here often has a very specific background: repairs were too expensive for the owner, the car has to be finally gone!
Does he answer your specific questions with phrases?

If the engine starts poorly: "It was not driven for a few days"If the transmission can hardly be shifted:"This is always the case with these models". Usually the seller has something to hide - which in turn indicates semi-professional dealers.

Gives imprecise answers to questions about previous accident damage. 
Be careful, this is played down all too often, right up to a criminal offense! Typical statement about massive front damage: »Fender was repainted due to small bump«: The actual repair effort can only be identified on the basis of an invoice or an expert opinion, which, however, does not yet say whether the repair was carried out properly. There are no documents, absolutely expert consult!

Is only ready to confirm mileage "according to speedometer".
"According to the speedometer" is not necessarily the same as the effective mileage. With several previous owners, the real mileage can be difficult to understand.

If the seller is not ready to confirm assurances in writing and makes statements such as "accident free","Replacement engine", Or"xy is still being repaired“Oral - so refrain from buying.
Is the seller not ready to drive to a used vehicle inspection by ADAC or TÜV?
If you have nothing to hide, you don't have to fear such an examination.

What the papers say about the car

The vehicle documents can also provide important information!
According to the letter, the vehicle has many previous owners
(up to 5 years over 2, up to 7 years over 3). A general statement of how many previous owners are still acceptable cannot be made. The framework mentioned here can only be a rough guide. Since October 01.10.2005st, XNUMX there are new papers. The registration certificate Part II (formerly the vehicle registration document) only contains the data of two owners instead of the previous six. The number of all owners is given, however, so that it can be determined how many hands the vehicle is in. If the seller cannot provide any information on this - caution is required!

The current owner has not had the vehicle for long
There can be many reasons for this, but the main thing will be that he was dissatisfied with the car.

There is no or only a sketchy inspection booklet
There is a risk here that professional maintenance has rarely or never been carried out in the past. Necessary repairs were then often not carried out at all or as “handicraft work”.

Corrosion guarantee: Have all requirements been met?
Details can be found in the service checkbook (if not available, please contact the ADAC, TÜV or the automobile manufacturer).

The next main inspection ("TÜV") is due soon
If you want to sell your vehicle well and have nothing to hide, you will prefer an upcoming inspection date. In any case, it means that the last inventory of road safety and the function of components relevant to emissions was a long time ago. A technical inspection of the vehicle by experts is strongly advised!

The test report of the last main inspection is not available
This is negative because the inspectors also issue the valid badge on condition that identified, not too serious defects are still remedied upon the owner's assurance. Information such as "Beginning corrosion on the underbody" (which does not yet affect traffic safety) can be instructive here! In addition, the HU report must be kept until the next examination!

Tour of the car

Now it's time to get to the vehicle: the important thing is good daylight and dry weather. If it is wet, some controls, e.g. B. the paint quality, perform insufficient.

Vehicle has not been washed
It is difficult to check the body surface, slight hail damage or anomalies as in the following points are then hardly noticeable.

Paint spray on tires, underbody protection
(e.g. in wheel arches), door and window rubbers. The spray gun or spray can is primarily used to cover rust or other partial damage. Superficial cosmetics! "Blender"!

Door sills, front / rear panel
Subsequently applied underbody protection. Popular way to hide rust damage. Particularly dangerous because it is impossible to estimate what is hidden underneath!

Vehicle was "tuned": spoiler, racing stripes, lowered chassis
Experience has shown that the majority of the vehicles equipped in this way were also driven more sportily, ie more easily, with a rather reduced awareness of maintenance and repair. Special care is required here. Conversion measures were not always carried out professionally, and unauthorized changes can also be expected. Supplements to the "general operating license" of the vehicle may also be required (entry in the vehicle documents, such as for engine tuning via chip or through additional release documents).

View along the vehicle flanks / hoods
Waves, color differences, dull areas. Means that something happened to the car: it could have been serious accident damage, or maybe it was just a slight dent. In any case negative, if the seller did not point it out of his own accord.

Body surface: rust spots visible

It can mean that the seller is honest because he has not done "cosmetics". How serious the corrosion is to be classified can only be decided by an expert! Small rust pimples or bubble-shaped paint bumps are definitely not blemishes that can be easily removed, as there is already rusting through. Experience also shows that with such damage patterns, incipient or severe corrosion can also be expected in other areas that are difficult to control (sub-floor, cavities).

Blackened tire flanks with black tire color
The vehicle is mainly optically prepared - special attention to the tires: - unevenly worn, tread depth less than 2,5 mm, heavy wear on the inner or outer shoulder of the tire can be caused by a faulty chassis geometry, a workshop must make a diagnosis here. A tread depth of less than 2,5 mm, even if 1,6 mm is legally permissible, can no longer be viewed as roadworthy (take new set of tires into account).

Tires: winter tires are fitted
Nothing unusual in winter, provided there is a set of usable summer bikes in the trunk. Otherwise, it can be assumed that, until recently, driving with poor summer tires. Information on previous use / maintenance!

Rim check: damage (e.g. curb)
Rust, rim spray, deformed rim edges: Possibility of consequential damage to the wheel suspension or tie rods of the steering. Notice of severe operating conditions!

Body check

Are the gaps between doors and hoods uneven?
Can be an indication of previous accident damage.

Luminaires: falling rocks, cracks, cracks, fogged up inside, blind reflectors, rusted.
Headlight replacement can be very expensive, especially with modern systems!

Visual inspection of brake discs (as far as rims allow a view): Grooves, rusted?
Not always in order with new discs and new brake pads: If the cause is stiff brake calipers, expensive repairs can be expected. The same applies to traces of moisture in this area (loss of brake fluid): For cost reasons, it will be gladly pushed off to the subsequent owner.

Look under the car
What about under the car? Without a lifting platform (usually not available at the point of sale), it can only be assessed insufficiently. In the event of serious individual defects or abnormalities in the previous checkpoints, it is better to assume that the
"Basement" is also a lot of trouble, without you being able to recognize it (useful test equipment: flashlight, floor mat as a base).

Engine / transmission area

Oil drops on the underside of the units or on the ground. Frequent weak point in used cars, here high repair costs can threaten.
Underbody / wheel arches: repair traces. Underbody protection looks completely or partially renewed (different structure / color)?

Cosmetics of the very dangerous kind!
If repair welds are recognizable: further professional assessment is necessary.

Rust spots on the undersides ("folds") of doors and tailgate. A common weak point even in well-maintained cars.

Check in the engine compartment

Everything shines like new (engine wash, engine protection wax).
What makes a very positive impression on the one hand can hide leakages on the other hand. Concrete assessment is therefore not possible.
Corrosion (especially side walls at the transition to the fenders / battery area).
If it rusts here, then there is usually a risk of expensive repairs. For welded-in sheets: specialist required for assessment.

Traces of paint spray.
Repair costs as above! ("Blender" / accident?)

Oil change trailer: Mileage?
No logical match with the dashboard odometer?

Cooling water level not correct?
Refilling alone is usually not enough. Can be an indication of a defect.

Oil dipstick:

Oil level below minimum mark / oil colored black.
Does the engine need oil? Have the refill quantity confirmed on a 1 km journey in writing (beyond 000 liter it becomes critical), date of the last oil change?

Brake fluid reservoir Level not i. O.?
If not: refilling is not enough, usually expensive repairs are necessary. The same applies to the reservoir of the power steering.

Automatic transmission: oil level not correct?
(Is usually checked with the engine running.) A workshop diagnosis is essential here. Oil loss visible (engine, gearbox, power steering).
Depending on the damaged area, the repair costs can vary, exact statements only possible after a workshop diagnosis.

Torn rubber sleeves on steering and drive shafts.
Also easily recognizable for the non-specialist. Look for everything that looks like rubber bellows. Damages were often caused by stone martens. Repairs usually mean high labor costs.

Starting the engine: noise?
Whether from the engine itself or the exhaust system, alternator or water pump: the distinction between normal and abnormal noises is extremely difficult for the layperson. If you are unsure, then definitely one Automotive experts attention.

Body inside / trunk

Musty smell / damp floor coverings / rust spots. Notice of body leaks. Even troubleshooting can be time-consuming and therefore expensive. Long-term effects can lead to corrosion damage.
The driver's seat is worn out, scuffed, wobbles in guides.
Would be instructive for a car that is said to have run well under 100.000 km.
Seat belts: do not roll up properly, are frayed or torn.
Can also be an indication of heavy use, but basically means that they have to be replaced.

Printable quick check

  • Function of lighting / signal system not OK?
  • Headlights / taillights: stone chips, cracks, moisture?
  • Windshield: stone chips, scratches, cracks?
  • Tires: tread depth less than 2,5 mm; Uneven profile run?
  • Brake discs: grooving, rust?
  • Engine compartment: External loss of oil, cooling water?
  • Repainting / corrosion?
  • Battery poles oxidized?
  • Oil / brake fluid / cooling water level not correct?
  • Rubber sleeves for drive shafts / steering damaged?
  • With the engine running: abnormal noise?
  • Boot inside: repainting / corrosion? Moisture under floor mats? Spare wheel / jack missing?
  • Lower body: signs of repair / corrosion visible?
  • Engine, transmission, differential: oil loss recognizable?
  • Exhaust optically / acoustically wrong?
  • Shock absorber: oil loss?
  • Suspension / chassis without damage?
  • Underside of doors / hoods: corrosion?
  • Fuel / brake system: traces of moisture?
  • Body inside: function of windscreen wiper / heater / fan not OK

test drive

The conclusion of your assessment: The test drive. 
Basically: Go to streets with little traffic, also drive out of town, as certain defects only show up at higher speeds / engine speeds.
Transmission cannot be switched easily and silently, normal noise (open side window).

Engine, transmission, exhaust
With full steering lock at slow speed: cracking noises (drive shafts, wheel bearings)
The engine does not start immediately, runs unevenly, does not react spontaneously to the accelerator pedal
Vehicle does not react spontaneously to steering locks Vehicle / steering wheel vibrates (usually only noticeable from approx. 80 km / h) Vehicle does not run exactly straight on level road

Braking: Vehicle does not stay on track, grinding noises?
On uneven road surfaces: jump wheels, vehicle moved
sideways in curves (bad shock absorber function)
View under engine compartment: Does oil drip off?
Touch rims: hot? (with stiff brake mechanics)

The very short quick check

Would you like to get an overview again? Or do you have enough experience to make do with a small checklist?

Then use the following list!

  • Body outside:
  • Paint spray on tires, underbody protection (e.g. in wheel arches),
  • Door and window rubbers?
  • View along the vehicle flanks / hoods:
  • Waves, color differences, matt areas, rust?
  • Subsequent underbody protection on door sills,
    Fender edges?
  • Uneven joints of doors / hoods to the body?
  • Function electric mirror adjustment,
  • electric windows not OK
  • Seats wobble, cannot be adjusted properly Seat belts damaged, do not roll up properly
  • Floor carpets are damp



All information about buying used cars can be found at