What Should I ask Mechainc to check when buying Used Car? Checklist

I found a good car for sale and will take it to a mechanic soon.

What things should I ask them to check? The desk clerk said it would only cost 20 dollars to check it out which seems really low for me.

So i wanted to show up with a checklist to make sure they check everything. Anyone know waht I should ask to check and or know of a checklist I can print out?


Year, make, model mileage?? Different cars have different weaknesses…

2001 Camry LE, automatic 4 cylinder
I hear a clicking type of sound near the belts and a slight puttering sound at the exhaust. Not sure what these noises mean if anything.

oh yeah with 115k miles

That is actually a really great question that I would like to review. If there are maintenance records I would like to see them. I would expect at minimum the maintenance in the manual. An oil condition check, IE it needs changing, Trans Fluid check for discoloring, Check of the lifetime used on the breaks, tire wear and wear patterns indicative of tires alignment or struts or shocks needed, Overall feel of the car, is it loose or tight, and suggested repairs (Timing belt etc).

the car drove great. smooth, no problems.
the owner said the timing belt was changed at 98k (but doesn’t have receipt friend did it) has 1 year old tires. Oil change recent. That’s all i know.

I’ll buy carfax tomorrow to see history. Exterior is excellent condition. From my minimal knowledge engine looked fine, but didnt’ inspect fluids.

Has the timing belt been changed? Has the transmission been serviced?

The inspection should include looking for collision damage, fluid leaks, exhaust leaks, brake condition, worn steering and suspension parts…

“the owner said the timing belt was changed at 98k (but doesn’t have receipt friend did it)”

I hate to shock you, but people have been known to lie about virtually anything in order to sell a used car.
In the absence of documentary proof of something as vital as a timing belt change, you have to assume that this job was not done, and you will need to have it done a.s.a.p. after purchase. Use that as a negotiating point for having the price reduced by $600, and then actually have the belt replaced. Better safe than sorry.

Also–the number of people who were lulled into a false sense of security by “clean” Carfax reports is…significant. Use that report in conjunction with a mechanical inspection and a review of the car’s maintenance records in order to evaluate its condition more thoroughly.

One of the items that I would add to the mechanic’s checklist is to look for evidence of collision damage. Also–have him check for the presence of airbags. All too often, buyers of used cars have found that their “new” car had previously been in a wreck, and that the airbags had not been replaced. Removal of the airbag warning light can be used to conceal the lack of airbags.

If the mechanic is good, you don’t need to tell him or her what to check they will know, if they are not good, them you need a different mechanic. When you say desk clerk, that sounds like you are at a dealer or chain. You want a good INDEPENDENT mechanic.

If the mechanic does not know what to check, how can you trust them to check it?

I agree that most mechanics should know what to inspect if you bring it in. I think if you just asked them for a “used car inspection” they should know what to do. Should be about $100 or so for the inspection.
One thing no one has mentioned that should probably be done is a compression test.

It might be worthwhile to have someone who is very familiar with Toyotas to inspect the car. There are unique issues inherrant to each specific make and model. A mechanic familiar with those issues knows what to look for. And if I were considering that car I would price having the timing belt serviced with all new components, i.e., water pump, idlers and tensioners, seals and a name brand belt.

For 20 bucks you’re not going to get anything more than a quick lookover. If you want a thorough inspection it’s going to cost you some serious dollars (varies by locale) because it’s labor intensive.
This means not only a thorough road test but an oil pressure test, vaccum test, removal of spark plugs and a compression test, along with an inspection of basically every component on the car. This can easily run 2-300 dollars so you have to decide where you want to stop inspecting.

Not only that, even a thorough inspection does not guarantee you will have a zero problem car because an automobile is a complex thing and there are simply too many things for which there are no tests and which can fail at any time. An inspection only increases your odds a bit and verifies, sort of, that the major stuff is good.

I would also be wary of any claims about a timing belt replacement. If they claim this has been done then ask them who done it and tell the seller you’ll follow up on that first.