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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, I'm looking for my first WRX to purchase in the '02 - '04 range. I wasn't planning on buying one soon, because I only have ~6 grand right now. I was just doing some searching and found this...

Cars for Sale | 2002 Subaru WRX turbo AWD - US $4,000

The car is about 3 hours away from where I live. It needs tires though. If it seems legit, what questions should I ask if I call the seller? If I can find something wrong over the phone then I can save 6+ hours of my time and gas. I've read the stickies of what to look for when buying a used car and plan to take it to a local Subie dealer to have it checked out. I am not planning on modding it all that much. I am not a mechanic and would like it to last long. The only thing I might do is have a new exhaust put on and take the wing off. All opinions are valued, thanks!

Premium Member
132 Posts
Complete USED WRX Buying Checklist
What is this? Well, I thought I'd concatenate the subaru 152-point checklist, some other guides, and some common knowledge to make one big master list of things to check on a used WRX that you're looking at. I'd like to keep it just for WRX/STi. PLEASE let me know if you spot something wrong or missing.

I couldn't sleep last night, so I decided to just take 3 hours and write this up. Hope the sleep deprivation doesn't show through

And remember - a perfect car can fail a few of these - a great car can fail even more. This list is so you can collect information, and make a more informed decision.

Talk to the owner/dealer
Get a vehicle history report. That'll help you answer some of these:
Was the vehicle in an accident, flood, etc.?
Does the vehicle have a clean title?
Do the odometer readings make sense?
Any open recalls?
Ask for a full service history. You may not get it (some folks are disorganized), but it REALLY helps.
When was the last oil change? What type of oil was used?
When was the last tune up (spark plugs)? What type?
When were the tires last rotated?
What aftermarket parts are on there?

Walk around the vehicle
Look at all the panels. ALL of them.
Do they all match EXACTLY in color? If not, why not?
Are there any paint deformations - scratches, rock marks, etc?
Are there any metal deformations - dings, dents, etc?
Has the car been debadged? Can you have the original badges?
Are there extra badges? Are they removable?
Try all 4 doors - open and close them with the windows up and down. Rattle is okay, but it should be easy and solid.
Are there any chips/cracks on the windshield or the other windows?
Are the wiper blades in good condition?
For each door (5 on the wagon/hatch):
Hit lock via the keyless fob. Did the door lock as expected?
Try the door - shouldn't open.
Hit unlock via the keyless fob. Did the door unlock as expected?
Try the door - should open.
When the door's opened, do the interior lights come on as expected?
Look at the wheels/tires - curb rash?
Is the spare in good condition and full?
Are there enough tools to change a tire in there?

COLD Underhood checks
Pop the hood. Is it an easy process?
Check oil level - since the car's COLD, the level should be low in the safe range - BUT IN THE RANGE.
Check coolant level - there's a fill line.
Check power steering fluid level.
Check brake fluid.
Check clutch fluid.
Check ATF or gear oil - the latter is the dipstick under the I/C.
Check windshield washer fluid.
Inspect the battery.
Does it look like there's been a wrench to it recently? why?
Is it secure?
Get a mechanic to check the chemistry (specific gravity, electrolyte level).
Run a load test
Get a compression test - are all four values in a decent range and close to each other?
Pull on the accessory belts (two of them - better have small hands ) - are they taut?
Look at those belts again closely - are they cracked or worn looking?
Look at all the hoses - are they in good condition?
Look at all the clamps - are they tight?
Look at the metal around here:
Do all the VIN's match?
Is there a catalyst sticker on the hood, and at least one sticker on the front frame?
Look carefully at the frame pieces (to which the body panels are attached) - ANY warping whatsoever?
Look at the _____, is it aftermarket? List: (not all under-hood bits)
Uppipe - this'll be hard to see.
Downpipe - ditto.
Exhaust - get under the vehicle for this.
Suspension - springs, struts, etc.
Sway bars
Strut tower braces
Brakes - you'll see calipers and rotors.
Body - body kits, spoiler, hood scoop, roof rack, roof, bumpers, etc.
Steering wheel
Anything else you can easily spot.

On-lift checks - some can be done off-lift.
Check the tires
Is the pressure correct?
Are all four the same? THEY MUST BE!
Is the tread alright? Do the penny/quarter test.
Is the tread even on all 4 tires?
The tire manufacture dates - are they matching and within the last few years? Guides online help you read these.
Look carefully at the bottom cosmetic bits for problems.
Check brakes
Check/fix lug nut torque
Check for ANY fluid leaks
Check exhaust system
Check steering linkage
Check struts
Check axles
Check bolts/bushings/fasteners
Check rear diff fluid
Generally look for damage

Trunk - sedan only issues
(Especially with modified spoilers) - does the trunk open too fast? When you undo the latch, the trunk should float a half inch up or so.
Is it smooth to open/close?
Does it latch/unlatch properly?

Hatch - wagon/hatchback only issues
Does the hatch open all the way by itself, or do you have to help it that last inch?
Does the hatch latch properly?
Does the privacy cover work properly?
Do the back seats flip down correctly?

Get in the vehicle
Check for basic cosmetic issues - dirt, stains, rips, etc:
Steering Wheel
Instrument panel
Carpets/mats - are they all there?
Center console/cupholders
Door cards
Sit in the driver's seat.
Are the seats stained/ripped/etc?
Look in front of you, and at the interior stuff on both sides - are they dirty?
Does your seat belt work?
Can you slide forward and back all the way?
Can you tilt forward and back all the way?
Can you adjust up and down?
Can your headrest go all the way up and down (if it's supposed to)?
If the adjustments are electric, do they work? Do they remember positions?
Shut the door, hit the lock, try to flip the lock yourself
Sit in the passenger seat. Check all the above.
Sit in the 3 other seats. Check all above (all that's applicable).
Check the cabin air filter. Yeah, you'll probably need to replace this .
Check the child locks in the back - should NOT open from the inside when engaged, but should open from the outside.
While you're in the back, do the seats fold down correctly/easily if they're supposed to?
Back in the driver's seat - Are the pedals wobbly? Too tight?
Try working the gearbox into all the gears - do you feel any resistance?
Put it into neutral, make sure the handbrake is on. Get out and try to move the car. Can you?
Still in neutral, handbrake off, get out and push. Can you?
Adjust the steering wheel all the way up and down (and in and out, if you can). Easy?
Honk the horn. You should hear 2 distinct loud tones.
Hit the lock button. Do ALL the doors (5 in the wagon) lock?
Hit the unlock button. Do ALL the doors (5 in the wagon) lock? Repeat these two. Is the latching easy or forced?
Put the key in - you should hear a chime with the door open
Try the hazards - do they work with the car off?
Using the button on top of the steering wheel and other methods, check:
Headlights - low and high beams, turn/parking indicators
Fog lamps
Side markers
Taillights - brake, backup, turn (you'll see three different bulbs).
Brake bar - the red thing mounted higher.
Rear license plate lamps
Turn the key to Accessory.
Do the interior lights work?
Go back outside, pull the gas cap off. Do you get a warning light?
Play with the radio/head unit (nomenclature )
Is it the OEM radio?
Do all the buttons physically work?
Do all the functions (FM, AM, tape, CD, aux in - depending on what's there) work?
Turn it all the way up - is it loud?
QUICK - turn it back to normal! Are all the speakers outputting sound at the same level?
Can it turn off and back on?
Turn the key to ON. (most of these can be done later when the car is on to save battery)
Do all the dash warning lights go on momentarily, then turn off if they are supposed to?
If you've got the fancy gauges, did they dance for you?
Do the hazards still work?
Signal left. Check the front, side, and rear indicator.
Signal right. Same checks.
Tap the brakes just slightly. Are all three brake lights lit?
With the lights off, are the DRL's running (take parking brake off)?
Turn on parking lights (first notch) - do the right lights come on?
Turn on headlights (second notch) - do the right lights come on?
Point the lights at a wall - the driver's side should be aimed a bit lower than the passenger's.
Stand in front of the lights, on the driver's side, maybe 100' away. Are you blind?
Change the dash light level - do the dash lights fade in and out?
Does the rear defroster work?
If equipped, check the heated seats, windshield, mirrors.
Try the 12v outlet - does it power your favorite plug-in thing?

Premium Member
132 Posts
This is not my check list but it is what i used to buy my 2005 wrx and im very happy. Welcome i see this is your first post and good luck on the car deal! O and get a car fax to see the history report.:whoa:

Pro Manscaper
21,455 Posts
Something's not right with that price. The things that stick out to me are "Turbo and turbo timer"

I've never seen 5 spoke BBSs like that either...

3,351 Posts
yea the bbs rims are a different style i havent seen before but they could be.idk. price seems extremely low for that. have him send u a bunch of pics of it and videos too. when i was selling my car i made videos for ppl just to help them out. or u can have him send a picture with them putting something on the car so u know its actually his and its not just a scam
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