Five Things To Do After Buying a Used Car

Five Things To Do After Buying a Used Car

Last Updated September 13, 2023 | Meghan Drummond

Buying a used car is exciting, and after signing the last piece of paper, you may want to head straight for the open road. Unfortunately, there are a few additional steps in the process. Some of these steps are necessary, and some are just to ensure that you have just bought a car that you’ll be able to love for years to come.

These are the top five things you should do for your used car before you start joyriding.

  1. Paperwork
  2. Mechanic Inspection
  3. Clean it Out
  4. Get Under the Hood
  5. Fix the Small Things


You may have thought that you were finished with paperwork when you signed the check for your used car, but that was just the beginning. There’s a lot of paperwork associated with owning a car. So, pick out your favorite pen, grab your checkbook, and get ready for the least-fun part of car purchasing.

If you are financing or buy from a dealership, they’ll often handle the paperwork for you, but if not, it’s time for a trip to the DMV.

A long line outside of a DMV office


You need to have at least liability insurance on your vehicle, but if it’s financed the bank will tell you how much insurance you need to keep on it. Other aspects like the age of the car and your driving record will impact your insurance rates pretty considerably. Shopping around in advance can help save you some money as rates may vary, and you can often bundle your car insurance with your homeowners or renter’s insurance. You’ll need insurance for the rest of the paperwork, so knocking it out first will save you time.


New cars need to be issued their first title and used cars need to have the title transferred. This can either be done at the dealership or DMV. If you’re buying a car from a private seller, make sure that Section A of the title is completely filled or else you’ll have stood in that long DMV line only to be sent back.


This is another thing you’ll be able to take care of at the DMV. You can also either transfer your existing tags or purchase new or antique license plates at the DMV. If you get pulled over, your registration is going to be one of the first things you’re asked for, so make sure you have a copy in your glove compartment at all times.

Mechanic Time

Hopefully, you got the opportunity to do this before purchasing a vehicle, but sometimes that isn’t always practical. Now that the car is yours though, you’ll want to make sure that a trusted mechanic has gotten their eyes on it.

While they’re looking the car over, you can spend some time thumbing through your owner’s manual. If the previous owner was thorough, they may have kept a service record for you. If not, you’ll need to pick a new “starting” place for your future oil changes and other service needs.

For example, if you just purchased a car with 47,856 miles on it, you might decide that your new service cycle would start at 50,000 and proceed accordingly. Doing this allows you to make informed decisions about when you’ll need to complete routine maintenance for your vehicle.

Two men stand outside of an auto shop

Clean Your New Car

Few things are as crucial to the process of making a car yours as eradicating any evidence of the prior owner. If you have a good detailer nearby that you trust, it’s a good time for a quality detailing so you can start over with your car. If not, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get ready for a good old fashioned interior and exterior detailing.

Pay particularly close attention to the steering wheel, the shift knob, and the radio dial. These are all places that tend to get touched frequently and don’t always get cleaned with the thoroughness that you might expect.

Alternatively, if you’re convinced they’ll never be like new, picking out a new steering wheel or seat can help the car feel like yours and ensure that you’re not sitting on someone else’s dead skin flakes.

Under the Hood Inspection

Assuming you took your time during the buying process and conducted a thorough inspection of all the components of the car, everything should look okay, but now that it’s yours there’s no reason not to improve it more.

Go ahead and check the following fluids:

  • Oil
  • Transmission Fluid
  • Windshield Wiper Fluid
  • Coolant

Also check for things like corrosion on the car battery, which can be cleaned off with a simple wire bristled brush.

Fix the Little Things

People may say to ignore the small stuff, but ultimately, it’s the little annoyances that are easiest to deal with, so why not take care of them before they even have the chance to bother you? Replacing the wiper blades or torn trim pieces will help prevent a major headache later, and they’re inexpensive and easy to take care of. Likewise, restoring headlights yourself is very easy.

Tire pressure is another one of those little things that everyone ignores until it’s ruining their driving experience, or they’re being made fun of at Cars and Coffee. Use a good tire pressure reader (digital or analog is fine, we promise) and make sure your tires are at an optimal pressure to improve your gas mileage and make sure your tires are evenly worn.

It’s also a good time to check the wear on your tires and brake pads.

hand holds a digital tire pressure reader up to check psi


You’ve finished addressing any issues that might sneak up and surprise you later or that could negatively impact your driving experience immediately, now it’s time to drive your car and think about other steps you may want to take to further personalize your driving experience. Whether that be as simple as a cup holder big enough to hold your favorite beverage or a shift knob that feels great and stands out in a crowd.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to ways to personalize both the way your car looks as well as how it drives.

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.