When it comes to purchasing a used car, perhaps the most important step is to ensure that you are purchasing a structurally and mechanically sound vehicle. There are specific things that you should look for when purchasing a used vehicle. A mechanically and structurally sound vehicle is one that will provide years of service with minimum hassle. Giving your next used vehicle a detailed inspection will help you avoid the biggest downfall when it comes to purchasing used - purchasing a lemon.

Craigslist cars for sale are a great way to save money. Start by inspecting the exterior paint and body condition of the vehicle. Take note of any major dints, chips, paint peel, or rust damage. In addition, you will want to look at all of fenders, quarter panels, hood, trunk and doors for alignment. Make sure that the gaps where each piece meet up are even. A tapered gap may be an indication of a prior collision and poor body work. Take a look at the tires for wear. A good rule of thumb for passing inspection is that the tire wear can not exceed the top of Lincolns head on the penny. If the tread is lower than this level, you will soon need tires.

Check the interior of the vehicle for upholstery wear. A common problem for many older vehicles is a cracked dashboard. Inspect this for visible signs of wear. Check the function of all power accessories and essentials such as air conditioning and windshield wipers. Take note of the vehicles glass condition and ensure that there are no cracks or chips. In addition, you should also check the interior for any signs of moisture such as condensation on the glass or wet carpet. This could be a difficult problem to solve.

Perhaps the most important part of the vehicle is the engine and transmission. Start the vehicle up and look underneath for leaks. Check to see how clean the actual engine and components are. Listen to the engine for abnormal sounds such as knocks or ticks. Check your fluids and ensure that they are the color that they should be. A discolored fluid could indicate a serious problem. Have an assistant shift the vehicle between drive, park, and reverse and watch the engine. Only slight movement should be noted. Excessive movement could indicate a broken engine mount or other problem. Look inside at the oil pressure gauge, coolant gauge, and the battery gauge. Ensure that they are all functioning properly.

Now, it is time for a test drive. Take the vehicle out on the road and ensure that it shifts properly. Listen to the engine, transmission and the suspension for abnormal noises. Feel the brakes for softness or sponginess. Listen to the suspension for noises. Feel the steering wheel when you come to a stop for vibration. Ensure that all gears work by using the reverse, drive and neutral gear.

Checking out a used vehicle is the most important part of the transaction. If you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, have a mechanic come along with you. Having a mechanic do the final inspection is always a good idea.