So you're about to pull the trigger on that awesome used car you've been after for the past month—that's great! But even though you've done your homework to make sure it has all the features you want and need—or can be upgraded to add them later—are you sure it's everything the seller says it is? Wouldn't you like a little insurance? Get an inspection.
Unless you're a mechanic, any time you decide to buy a used car, you should budget for an inspection. Most mechanics will do one at their shop with a little pre-arrangement, and many will even come to the car to inspect it on-site (though they may be able to do a more thorough job at their shop with the aid of a lift). In either case, a thorough inspection by an independent professional shouldn't cost you more than $200, and it could save you thousands. Consumer Reports has some good tips for looking a car over on your own, as well as ways to find a good mechanic to conduct the final inspection.
How is that? Well, first of all, it could keep you from buying a car that's going to need major repair work in the near future, saving you money at the mechanic's shop. Or it could expose some important but not deal-breaking maintenance or wear issues that could save you a big chunk of the purchase price, knocking thousands off again. In more extreme cases, a good inspection can tell you that a car has been in an accident that doesn't show up on its vehicle report sheet, but which could compromise its safety or reliability, saving you not just money, but potentially your health or your life.
Buying from private parties is a great way to save money, and using Instamotor is a great way to connect car buyers with car sellers. But even with Instamotor's vetting process, an inspection is an important element of any transaction, as only an experienced mechanic can tell you if a specific car is in proper working order.
No matter where you're buying your car, however, an independent inspection by a mechanic of your choosing is an important part of the picture—not just any inspection by any mechanic. And if a seller isn't willing to let the car be inspected prior to purchase, you can assume there's a good reason why, and that's reason enough to continue your search for the right car.
Most dealerships will offer one of these to you when you buy a new or used car, and sometimes it's even complimentary. You can also get a multi-point inspection from a reputable mechanic. Regardless of where you get it done, always ask the mechanic what's included in their particular inspection, as there is no explicit standard. Typically the multi-point inspection includes:
Depending on where you go, the mechanic could advertise a big number, like a "150 Point Inspection", but that could mean the brakes take up 50 of those points. Again, ask the mechanic what they go over so you know what you're paying for, and you can request they look into certain other things too, like suspension and steering.
In fact, if you're after the best possible pre-purchase inspection, you should strongly consider finding an ASE Certified mechanic to do the job. ASE is an organization which tests mechanics to verify their knowledge and abilities. Requirements for ASE Certification include two years of on-the-job experience or one year of work experience plus graduation from a two-year automotive school. Mechanics must also re-test every five years to maintain their certification, which helps to ensure ASE Certified mechanics are up-to-date on all of the latest automotive technology.
Not sure where to find an ASE mechanic for your inspection? There's a web-based service called YourMechanic which does exactly that—puts you in touch with an ASE Certified mechanic for the purpose of a vehicle inspection before a sale. Even better, their average cost for an inspection is $90-105, saving you a few bucks over some independent mechanics.
Yes, $100-200 is a good chunk of cash, and it may ultimately show nothing out of the ordinary—in fact, most cars for sale will pass such an inspection with flying colors. But when you're spending thousands or tens of thousands on a purchase, it's cheap insurance that can protect your wallet and your life.
Get an inspection. It's worth it.
Not your typical used car salesman. Our team is here to provide honest and transparent advice about car buying and selling.