Tips For Buying A Car

Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission

Things to remember when purchasing an automobile:
The Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission offers this step-by-step guide to follow when shopping for a used car.

When shopping for a used car, it's important to get the best car for your money. How do you find out if the car is in good condition? The Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission recommends that consumers take the car to a reputable mechanic for a thorough inspection. Check the car yourself first to eliminate the cars with obvious problems.


  • Decide what you can afford before you start shopping.
  • Narrow your search to the type of vehicle that meets your needs.
  • Shop around for financing before you choose a car. Ask about the financing terms; the number of months, down payment, interest rates, finance charge.

Checking Tires

  • Inspect for wear. Tires worn in one spot may need balancing, alignment or have improper air pressure. Another reason could be a bent frame or weak shocks.
  • Hold each tire firmly and shake. Any play may or clunking may indicate a wheel bearing or a suspension joint in need of repair.


  • Press down hard on the corners of the front and rear fenders. The car should spring up and settle quickly. To much bounce is an indication that the car needs new shocks.
  • Look at the car during the day. Look for paint differences, crumples in the metal or rough finish.
  • Look around edges of the trunk area, inside doors and under the hood for paint overspray. If the car has been repainted, it DOES NOT MEAN it has been in an accident.
  • Open and close doors, trunk and hood several times to see if they close tightly and without hitting any other part of the car.


  • Look under the car at the frame area to see if any part has been welded or bent.


  • Place your foot on the pedal and hold. If it sinks to the floor, the car is unsafe to drive.

Car Controls

Work All Controls.

  • Defroster
  • heater
  • lights
  • horn
  • wipers
  • radio
  • air conditioner
  • parking brake
  • windows
  • hood release

Safety Items

  • Move head restraints and buckle safety belts several times to make sure these devices are working. They do save lives.

Use the following checklist (circle your answer): Yes No

Start Engine Noises (knocks, grinding, hissing) Rough Idle Yes No

While Driving Does the engine stall?

Engine runs rough Blue smoke out of tailpipe Knocking Power loss

Does the temperature gauge read hotter than normal? Yes No

Brakes Pedal sinks to floor Pulsations in brake pedal Grinding Yes No

Transmission Clunks/bucking Shifts choppy Clutch slips Yes No

When Returning From Drive Does engine diesel when shut off?

Is it hard to re-start?

Look under the hood of the car - are there any fluid leaks? 

Too Many Yeses?

Don't buy the car.

  • Make sure the car passes an emissions test in counties where required.
  • Make sure all the needed repairs are written on the purchase contract before you sign.
  • A simple step-by-step guide to follow when shopping for a used car.

You may also visit for more information to assist you  when purchasing a used vehicle.