If you are in the market for a “new-to-you” vehicle, make sure to consider getting a used car pre-purchase inspection done before you buy. Having a professional auto mechanic check the vehicle for problems can provide you with reassurance about a used vehicle’s overall condition and give you confidence that the good deal you think you’re getting is really a good deal.
Today, used car purchases represent a large percentage of the overall number of vehicles sold annually. For many, the price of a pre-owned vehicle will be a significant investment and involves financing for anywhere from 3-6 years. When you consider how small the fee of a used car pre-purchase inspection is compared to the cost of a pre-owned car, truck or SUV, you really can’t afford not to have one.
Professional Used Car Inspection
Professional inspections can identify existing problems, uncover hidden problem, and point out safety or repair issues that may be necessary in the near future. These can result from usual wear and tear, abuse, or delayed or missed maintenance. What buyer doesn’t want to be sure that the vehicle they’re considering will be a good value and will fit within their auto repair and maintenance budget for the foreseeable future.
Still, many prospective used car buyers decide to forgo an inspection for various reasons:
- They don’t think it is necessary
- They don’t want to pay for one
- They don’t know a reputable repair shop that offers this service
- They really “want this car” and are afraid another buyer might come along while they are waiting to get the inspection done
Whatever the reason, failing to have a used car pre-purchase inspection before making a final decision can result in heartache and expense. The inspection fee is a drop in the bucket, especially when the inspecting technician discovers that engine or transmission repair costing anywhere from $1000 to $4000 is needed.
It is important to keep in mind that used car inspections vary from provider to provider. This makes it a good idea to consider beforehand what you want from an inspection. At Tune Tech Downtown, we make sure we understand the customer’s expectations to insure we are able to meet them and give value for every used car pre-purchase inspection we perform.
Since people have various reasons for choosing to have an inspection done, it’s a good idea to make a list of what you expect from the process. One buyer accepts that with a used instead of new vehicle, repair issues may be required sooner than later. They want to have a professional but impartial opinion of the car’s condition before signing on the dotted line.
Another buyer wants all existing problems identified so they can negotiate with the seller to cover all or part of the important repair items. Having an idea of what needs repair now or is likely to require repair in the near future can help a buyer identify if the vehicle over-priced.
Do Your Own Pre-Inspection
Whether you plan to buy from a dealer or a private party, do your own vehicle inspection before having a formal inspection done. Some problems are obvious enough that you don’t have to be a technician to spot them.
Consider the following before asking to take the vehicle to a shop:
- Look the body over for signs of paint variations, evidence of body damage, or cracks in glass
- Check the interior for cosmetic damage that signals less obvious or hidden abuse may be present; broken switches, nobs, or handles; missing trim; headliner, or upholstery tears
- Test drive it in town as well as on the highway and listen for noises or vibrations at various speeds
- Verify all accessories are operating; air conditioning, radio, CD player, wipers, cruise control, keyless entry and key fob
- Turn on the defroster to make sure excessive moisture does not collect on any of the windows, especially during colder weather
There should be no odors obvious during or after the test drive, odors that suggest burnt oil, hot rubber, raw fuel, or mildew. Providing the rest of the vehicle looks good, the next step is to request and schedule a used car pre-inspection.
Flood and Salvage Title Used Cars
If you are buying from a private party, ask to see the title document to verify they own the vehicle. If they don’t have the title in their possession, a lender could hold a lien on the vehicle. Hesitance to show a title could also mean it is marked as a “salvage title” or “rebuilt title”.
When a vehicle has been in a flood or an accident and the insurance company determines the cost to repair the vehicle is more than its value, they will designate a salvage title. The title document will usually display a “salvage” or “rebuilt” designation if the vehicle was repaired and inspected.
Most people have heard of CarFax, a business that identifies when a vehicle has been in an accident or flood. Many dealers will provide CarFax documentation on their vehicles. Be aware that there have recently been concerns expressed about the accuracy of these documents and whether the reporting is complete.
You can purchase CarFax reports directly from the company itself if one is not readily available. Reports have recently started including repair shop and body shop history. This can help with identifying maintenance service and repairs done on a vehicle as well as where this work was done.
Cost of an Inspection
Used car pre-purchase inspections cost between $50.00 and $130.00 for most areas in Idaho. Many shops will allow you to bring one an additional vehicle in for inspection at no charge if the first one does not pass the inspection or has too many problems.
If the technician finds one or more issues that require additional labor hours to pinpoint or verify, the shop should ask you to authorize the extra charge beforehand. The following would usually require more time for in-depth inspection:
- Computer diagnosis to pinpoint an engine misfire
- Extended test drive time to ensure all OBDII monitors have had time to run
- Pulling a transmission pan to visually inspect the transmission
- Removing covers to inspect the timing belt
- Pulling spark plugs for a compression test
- Having wheel alignment done for concerns noted in the body or frame
Remember, paying the additional charge for inspection of these important items could end up saving you thousands of dollars down the road.
Don’t forget to ask for repair estimates for any major repair work the inspection recommends. When you follow-up with the seller, this documentation can provide a point of negotiation with regard to the selling price.
For vehicles on a sales lot where repair facilities are available, the seller may offer to repair those items and hold to the asking price, or drop the price if you are willing to pay for the repair work after you buy.
Professional Used Car Pre-Purchase Inspection
Your best bet is to have a Master technician inspect any used vehicle you are considering. They have the most experience, knowledge, and commitment to performing exceptional work for their customers. Having seen thousands of cars and trucks, they can often identify problems a less experienced mechanic might miss.
Repair shops that offer this service often use a detailed form to guide the inspection. When added to the expertise of a Master technician, you can usually count on getting thorough results.
Most inspection forms have between 25 and 100 points in the following areas for the inspecting technician to verify:
- Interior and exterior cosmetic damage
- Brake function
- Steering and suspension
- Radiator coolant leaks
- Automatic transmission operation
- Standard transmission operation
- Drive axles and differentials
- Engine oil leaks
- Frame and body damage
- All fluid levels and appearance
- All accessories functioning
- Computer scanning and analysis
As you can see, paying for a professional used car pre-purchase inspection provides reassurance and value beyond the cost. Here at Tune Tech we do the inspections for $69.95. We also include inspection of a second vehicle if the first one fails the inspection or when the cost of recommended repair work exceeds the value of the vehicle.
If you are in the process of considering a pre-owned vehicle for purchase, let one of our ASE certified technicians provide a pre-purchase inspection. We can provide the reassurance you want so your purchase comes with no regrets.
Call, stop by, or visit us online to request an appointment.