Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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  • Look for unmatched paint or poor body fit (may indicate collision damage). 
  • Check for body filler (use a refrigerator magnet on suspicious spots).
  •  Look for rust all around, especially at wheel wells, under doors, in trunk. 
  • Musty smell or dampness in trunk may indicate collision damage. 
  • If car appears newly painted, why?


  • Wear should be even on each tire and among the set.
  • Tires must be the same size.
  • Wear should be consistent with odometer mileage.
  • Insist on a spare, jack, and lug wrench.


  • Push down and release each corner of car. If it bounces more than once, car may need struts or shocks.
  • Push and pull on each wheel from beside the car. If wheel moves in or out, bearings or CV joints may be in bad condition.
  • Remember that uneven tire wear may indicate suspension problems. If car has new tires, be extra careful in checking suspension.
  • Check for "dog-tracking" by having a friend follow you while driving the car. If rear end of car seems to be sliding to the side, car may have serious frame damage from collision.
  • If front-wheel drive, check CV joint boots on either end of front axles (should be a total of four). If torn or missing, expect to have trouble with expensive joints!


  • Wear of seats, steering wheel, etc. should be consistent with odometer mileage.
  • Pay special attention to amount of wear on pedals.
  • Musty smell or new carpet may indicate flood damage.
  • Make sure windows, safety belts, etc. all work.
  • Check glove box contents. You should have an owner's manual. Look for repair orders which may show the car's mileage. Make sure mileage makes sense with current odometer reading.

Under the Hood 

  • Check for proper fluid levels.
  • Oil should not smell burnt or contain water.
  • Coolant should be green, not rusty.
  • Automatic transmission fluid should be red or pink and not smell burnt.
  • Look for leaks around radiator and hoses.
  • Spots on the ground under the car may indicate leaks. To be sure, place a clean newspaper on ground under the car after driving it. Check in a few minutes for spots.

[ Used Car Test Drive Checklist ]