Tips on inspecting vehicles

Community Manager

Did you know that more cars are sold on OfferUp than any other site? Are you in the market for a new car but just not sure where to start? We recently asked our community members for some tips on what to inspect in a vehicle before purchasing.


By @cyclomatic:

“Taking a car to a parking lot and doing a full turn radius few times, both left and right, can help give you feedback about axles, tie rods, boots, rack and pinion, tires etc. If you do a full turn and get any vibration, clicking or squealing sound or uneven feel, something is wrong down there.

The second is checking for vehicle that can have water damage. Check interior floorboard, inside door wells, brake and headlight casings among other places for rusted bolts or water inside areas it shouldn't be.


Once you know the car (make and model) do a quick search for recall or common problems with that particular car. Some recall issues relate to safety like airbags or brake lines. Good to be aware and ask questions of the present owners knowledge of any recall service done by the dealer.

Make sure diagnostic code hasn't been reset and dash light fuses work or are there.”


By @StevenY:

“Visual inspection, looks for things any fluids leak. Listened to the sound engine run, if sound like knock it could have damage seal, broken piston, engine problems. Take the car up to 55-60 MPH, felts steering wheel if it shakes like leaf in the wind. The car had front-end works problems like steering pump, alignment, balance tires and cv ball joint problems. Check oils dipstick, if chocolate milkshake colors water gets into the engine. Big problem if this happens, you're looking forward to spending completed engine overhaul. Look back on your rear mirrors, if white smoke comes out tailpipe engine burns oil. This is bad as well part of engine problems continue. If the car doesn't get up to speed gas filter, water in the gas tank, spark plugs, timing issue, the engine needs maintaining.”


Along with the above recommendations from our community members, OfferUp also has some suggestions for purchasing a vehicle which can be found in our Help Center here. The article from our Help Center also offers some additional resources that you can check out, including CarFax and Kelley Blue Book. Smiley Happy


  • Check the price - research to make sure the price is fair and competitive. Remember that most private sellers will list their vehicle at a price close to the value, and dealers won’t typically underprice a vehicle. If you come across a deal that seems too good to be true, it’s best to trust your gut Smiley Happy
  • Certified pre-owned and used vehicles - many automakers and dealers offer a certified pre-owned program. If you don’t have this as an option, it may be worth additional research to verify their condition, service history, and warranty status.
  • Check the vehicle history report - it’s always worth checking CarFax or VinAudit to see if there is a current vehicle history report.
  • Check service records - some cars will even have a detailed report of any services done to the vehicle. It’s worth checking to see if CarFax or AutoCheck has this information handy.
  • Inspect and test drive the vehicle - you may even want to take the vehicle to a shop to get a quick check, or bring someone that knows about cars with you.
  • Transferring ownership and payment - make sure you know all of the steps that need to be completed when selling or purchasing a vehicle from a private seller.


Remember, purchasing vehicles sight-unseen is never advised and is done at the buyer's own risk, so make sure you fully inspect and test drive before completing the transaction.


Did our list miss anything? We want to hear your great ideas! Be sure to share in the comments below, and don't forget to check out the Everything Autos forum

Level 3
Overheating kills headgaskets. Headgaskets are an expensive repair and damaged ones kill engines. They are easily identified in this fashion. Drain the radiator into a bucket, if it's got any signs of oil in it, be prepared to spend another 600 bucks on the car within the week. If there's not oil? Pour it back into the radiator. Please note this should be done while the car is OFF and only when the car is COOL. Doing it hot or running will burn you /destroy your engine respectively. Look under the hood for shiny new parts, people don't replace parts that aren't broken, but they DO use new parts to hide underlying issues they didn't fully solve.
Community Manager

Great points, @Tulare!! Thanks for sharing Smiley Happy