Car BuyingCar Maintenance

How to Check if a Car is Roadworthy

Knowing how to check if a car is roadworthy is essential when buying a used car, as well as when you own one. There’s never a good reason not to check on the state of a vehicle, and when there’s so much that can go wrong, understanding the sure-fire ways to tell you that a car isn’t safe can be a real lifesaver both financially and literally. Here how to get vehicles overall condition report before purchase be smart.

Although not everything on a car is easy to check (unless you’re a pre-purchase vehicle inspector like us), there are always some things that are easy to spot. The trick to spotting them, however, is knowing where to look. 

We’ve split some of the easiest ways to check for yourself into the easy, and the hard. That way, no matter what situation you’re in when you’re checking the roadworthiness of a vehicle, you have at least some idea of what to be on the lookout for. 

Let’s take a look. 

Easy Checks: 

We’ll start off by looking into the easier ways to check if a car is roadworthy. These should all take you less than 10 minutes in total and can all be ways to make your car dangerous to drive, as well as fail an MOT or get pulled over for driving a dangerous vehicle. 


It goes without saying, but lights are vital to safety. Every single light on your vehicle serves a big purpose. You need to make sure that headlights, indicators, brake lights, reverse lights and your fog lights are all doing their job and are up to scratch. 

Of course, there always comes a time when a bulb is blown that is an easy fix, but if something else is wrong, it can be a seriously costly expense to undertake the work yourself. Make sure you know what’s going on. 


Again, a car’s brakes go without saying. They need to be in good condition and easily able to do the job. That applies to both your brakes with the peddle and your handbrake or parking brake too. They all make sure you’re keeping safe and secure. 

If there are any noises coming from the car’s brakes, if they look worn, or they simply aren’t effective, don’t be afraid to tell the seller this is unacceptable or to go to a garage and get them checked out if you already own the car. They go through a huge amount of wear and tear after all, and they will always need replacing after a good number of miles. 

Glass condition

Glass is one of the most common ways to fail an MOT if you have issues. Usually, it comes from a cracked windscreen that means your vision is impaired. That of course means you’re endangering yourself and other road users, which is the definition of a car not being roadworthy. 

It’s also extremely dangerous to be running low on wiper fluid or to have wipers that are in poor condition too for this exact same reason. It sounds silly and of course, is an incredibly easy fix, but it’s still something worth knowing about in case you’re ever pulled over or about to get an MOT. Make sure everything works. 


Mirrors are a slightly more complicated subject when it comes to checking if a car is roadworthy. Your car will usually have three mirrors with the exception of vehicles that don’t have a rear window. Your mirrors are essential to making sure you’re aware of your position on the road as well as other drivers’, so they need to be looked after. 

If a car is missing a wing mirror or the mirrors are cracked, this is a surefire way to land yourself in trouble should you be called out on it. It’s very dangerous, especially when intending to drive on motorways, and it’s also really easy to spot. It’s legal to drive without proper use of a passenger-side wing mirror due to undertaking being illegal, but it still is certainly not a wise move. 


If you’re doing a really complete check of a car being roadworthy, it’s also vital to check the tyres as well. Worn tyres are a really serious accident risk as you lose your traction on the road, and again, they’re an easy one to spot and, more so, cost you a good deal to replace too. 

Tyre wear comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes, so remember not to just settle for a little bit of visible tread. Watch out of all the signs of poor condition tyres and make sure you’re safe at all times. 

Hard Checks: 

Sadly, roadworthiness doesn’t stop at the outside of a vehicle. There’s more to be checked over on the internal side of things too even outside of the classic pre-MOT checklist like seatbelts and warning lights.  

Battery health 

The condition of the battery in a vehicle is responsible for a lot more than most people would think. After the initial ignition, the entire electrical systems in your vehicle are dependent on your battery being functional and effective. It powers everything from your windows and radio to your lights. 

This is especially important for car’s that have been left unused or unmainted properly for a while, which is often the case when buying used cars. You need to have a good look to see if you can see the signs of the battery being bad and to test it and make sure it works effectively without showing warning flags. 


The suspension is important for your comfort of course, but it’s also a big part of the structural integrity of the car as well. Checking if your vehicle is roadworthy means checking for structural issues too after all, which we’ll come onto, but your suspension is just one part of it that needs your attention. 

Get in the car and take it for a test drive if you are able to do so, or get someone else to do so if not. Listen for scrapes, noises and noticeable issues with the suspension, and be really intuitive about how the car feels. It’s hard to get a better idea without raising the car or getting an inspection, but this is a good way to make sure there are no immediate serious issues present. 

Structural Damage 

Structural damage affects your safety just as much as anything else. The whole car is built up of a certain structure, and that’s designed to make sure you’re safe and the car is sturdy too. That affects everything from crumple zones all the way down to simple shapes and mechanisms. 

Check for obvious structural problems like dents or any other signs that the vehicle may have been in an accident, as a lot of the time, even small bumps can cause issues that can even be as serious as a write off if gone untreated for long enough. 


Finally, you also need to check that the steering of the vehicle is up to scratch before you can finally complete your check of how roadworthy the car is. Although steering tends to be slightly more difficult with older cars, there still should not be any issues with performance. 

Make sure to check how difficult the steering of the vehicle is, how precise the steering is, and how sturdy the steering feels too. The steering column of a vehicle is just as susceptible to wear and tear as anywhere else on a car. Make sure you take the time to check it over properly. 


All in all, every single one of these things is vital to check how roadworthy a car is. They all affect your own safety as well as every single other road user that you come into contact with. It really is a serious issue that needs the utmost attention and care. 

Even on top of the safety importance, it of course also comes down to financial responsibility too. If you buy a car and are liable for the repairs should any of these things be wrong, it can cost you hundred if not thousands of pounds to put right, and it is entirely down to you. 

Missing even one of these points can result in a failed MOT should something be wrong, and when that happens, your only option is to pay the repair bill yourself or scrap the vehicle, at which point you’re going to be seriously kicking yourself if you didn’t take this seriously. 

How a car Inspection can Help 

Many people that are buying used cars aren’t aware that services like CarExamer exist. Vehicle inspections are a tried and tested way of making sure that you know everything there is to know about a vehicle, and it can save you money in all kinds of ways should anything be wrong with the vehicle. 

We are trained vehicle inspectors that test car’s for their roadworthiness as well as a huge list of other things to make sure that nothing catches you by surprise, and to offer you the peace of mind that only a professional can when it comes to spending money on something preowned and as volatile as a vehicle. Check also flood damaged vehicles.

For any advice or to find out more about pre purchase vehicle inspections a whole, contact the CarExamer team today. 

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