Used Car Checklist - tires and exterior

Put this used car checklist to work for you to determine the condition of tires and vehicle exterior. It's rather simple to implement, and it could provide valuable insight with respect to the condition of the vehicle.

From a personal perspective, I don't much care about the exterior of the vehicle, since my aim is primarily transportation. For me, looking at the tires is more important because replacing them is costly. Nevertheless, it's nice to have a vehicle that is appealing, so, let's take a look at the exterior as if we're interested in a nice looking vehicle as well as a reliable one.


Examining the exterior of a vehicle can give you an idea of its care and a bit about its potential for problems.

___Paint can chip, fade, de-laminate and otherwise be scratched or damaged. If you're not happy with the paint, you might as well forget the vehicle as painting a car is expensive, even for a cheap paint job that you won't be happy with.

___Body parts can be dented, misaligned and rusted. Badly damaged body parts or ones that look like they've been replaced or hammered on, can indicate repair from an accident. If you run into a car body from an older vehicle and it appears to be in perfect condition, I'd thump on it with your knuckles in various places to detect body filler.

___Glass can be chipped, cracked, or broken out. Lots of chips or pitting on the windshield would tend to indicate operation on gravel roads or in environments with lots of wind and dust in the air. A windshield is generally not too expensive to replace, and it's well worth it to avoid all of the glare from low angle sunshine.

___Lights should be checked for operation and integrity with respect to the lenses.


Tires are perhaps the most important item on this used car checklist. They are an expensive consumable. It would be nice to know the service life of tires so you know how long you can go before having to buy a new set.

___Is there obvious damage to the sidewalls? If sidewalls are damaged, they can't be repaired, the tire will need to be replaced.

___Look at the tread to see unusual wear on the edges (under-inflation or wheel alignment) or center (over-inflation), or all over (wheel alignment).

___Check tread depth. A quarter inch depth is good. Less is okay, but if the wear bars are coming close to the surface of the tread, then you can count on buying a new set of tires right away.

___Run the flat of your hand lightly across the tire tread in both directions on all four tires to detect snagging that can indicate wheel alignment problems. If it feels about the same in each direction, then chances are good that you don't have a problem with wheel alignment.

___Check to make certain the tires are the same make and model. If not, then they have been changed out for one reason or another.

___Are the wheels standard equipment or at least compatible equipment for the vehicle. If not, the vehicle won't operate or handle well at speed.

Take advantage of this used car checklist and my other checklists for buying used cars to help you make a decision with your eyes wide open. The good news is you never have to feel forced into buying a car, there are plenty of them out there, new and used, so take your time and get one you'll be happy with.

Done with Used Car Checklist, back to Buying Used Cars

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