The Importance Of A Pre-Purchase Car Inspection


Getting a professional to take an in-depth look at the new or used cars you're considering buying is a must.

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Buying a car can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are deciding on whether to buy new or used. And, if you've settled on a used vehicle, there are many things to consider before just driving away. Having a pre-purchase vehicle inspection done can save you time, and money in the long run, and it can prevent you from being scammed or done in.

Most automotive technicians or mechanics will be able to carry out a pre-purchase vehicle inspection on your behalf. These professionals evaluate the vehicle you plan on buying to determine its condition and value so you don't end up with a lemon of a car riddled with hidden problems. Such an inspection can also give you an idea of whether you are paying too much for what you're getting. Here's how a professional will complete a pre-sale car inspection and the checklist you should use when buying a used car.

Pre-purchase Car Inspection Service

What Does A Car Pre-Purchase Inspection Entail?

A pre-purchase car inspection is a professional service offered by an automotive technician or mechanic who will thoroughly assess the condition and quality of a car that a buyer is looking to purchase. Here are some things they will do during such an inspection:

  • Test Drive - Taking the car for a drive is a good first step. During this road test, the professional will listen for any odd noises from the engine, transmission, and drivetrain, and will be able to feel if the acceleration and braking responses are fine or indicative of a fault or excessive wear and tear. They can also give you a sense of the car's level of safety, if you aren't familiar with checking safety ratings on your car yourself.
  • Monitor Checks - The automotive technician or mechanic can scan the car's various computers for trouble codes that provide information on electrical or system errors. They'll also review the driver information screen for any warning lights and faulty bulbs.
  • Mechanical Checks - Part of the professional's pre-purchase car inspection checklist is a focused evaluation of the steering linkage, hoses, belts, suspension components, and fluids. Looking under the hood for leaks, overt damage, or potential loose components is part of the process.
  • Visual inspection - Closely examining the car will also allow the professional to give you feedback on tire wear, broken bits and pieces on the bodywork, chipped or cracked windows that will require you to lay out money, and even identify if the car has been in an accident.
  • Feedback - Compiling all the above information, the professional is able to tell you what condition the car is in and whether the asking price is reasonable or not. They will also be able to identify if you will need to spend money on fixes, repairs, or enhancements, in order for you to make an informed decision as to whether it's worth buying the car.
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Checklist For When You’re Buying A Used Car

Buying a used car requires you to take certain precautions to ensure you are getting the best deal. Finding a used car with good mileage can be difficult, so take your time and do as much searching as you can.

You are advantaged by legal protection when buying from a secondhand dealer but when you're buying privately, you're left to your own devices and subjected to "Buyer Beware". That means you bear all of the responsibility of making sure that the vehicle you're buying is okay to drive and has been maintained to an acceptable degree. You'll have to check the car thoroughly and ask all of the pertinent questions.

If you aren't using a professional to inspect the vehicle for you, here are some tips on how to inspect the car before buying and how to determine the condition of a used car:

  • Test Drive - Take the car for a test drive and whilst doing so pay attention to:
    • Strange engine noises
    • Inconsistent acceleration and braking responses
    • Odd accelerator and brake pedal feel, shaking, shuddering, or pulling to one side
    • Activated or flickering warning lights on the dashboard
    • Excessive exhaust emissions
  • Damage - To make sure that the car hasn't been in an accident or cheaply repaired, walk around the car and keep an eye out for any:
    • Cracked or chipped glass
    • Mismatched, fading, bubbling, or cracking paint
    • Inconsistent panel gaps
    • Paint traces on handles or window seals
    • Unusual-looking welding under hood or trunk
  • Documents - You'll also want to make sure that the seller has all of the important paperwork associated with the car and that the paperwork is legit. These include:
    • Vehicle registration
    • License disc
    • VIN matches registration and license
    • Service and maintenance history
    • Vehicle history report
    • Title and model details
Pre Purchase Car Inspection Checklist
Pre Sale Car Inspection


When should I get a pre-purchase car inspection service?

A pre-purchase inspection is something you should certainly consider if the vehicle you're purchasing is being sold by a private seller, if it's a far distance from you, or if it's no longer under warranty. It's always a good idea to have an inspection done when buying any used vehicle, although some dealers may offer their in-house inspection report as part of the package.

What’s the typical cost of a pre-purchase car inspection?

The cost of a PPI will depend on the professional you go to, but a good and thorough PPI of mainstream cars like a Toyota Camry or Ford EcoSport should cost anywhere between $100 and $200 and will include a test drive. PPIs of high-end luxury vehicles like a BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe can cost a lot more, however.

Does the buyer or seller pay for the pre-purchase car inspection?

The buyer is typically responsible for arranging and paying for the PPI as it is in their interest to be purchasing a high-value car. However, some dealers or private sellers may offer a PPI as part of the deal.

Should I inspect a new car before buying it?

You won't have to inspect a brand new car before buying it as it will likely be covered by a comprehensive warranty and be subjected to strict quality assurance processes before leaving the factory.

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