Mechanic inspectining a car

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Obtaining an inspection of a used vehicle before purchasing it is one of the most often-overlooked steps in this process. Buyers routinely spend thousands of dollars after driving the vehicle around the block and glancing under the period. A pre-purchase vehicle inspection may not find every flaw, but it should inform you of major problems with the vehicle before you purchase it.


Almost all businesses that provide automotive services offer pre-purchase inspections, including dealerships, chain-repair stores and independent garages. This service typically costs about $100 and requires at least one hour. Repair facilities should provide a brief description of the specific inspections that they perform, although they generally don’t guarantee their findings in an inspection.


A pre-purchase vehicle inspection is most beneficial for a purchase from a private party. This type of purchase generally does not provide recourse if you discover a major problem with the vehicle after you purchase it. Pre-purchase vehicle inspections primarily determine the general condition of the car. They also verify the options and other equipment that are present on the vehicle. An inspection may reveal problems with the vehicle’s body, engine and frame that are not immediately apparent.

Avoid Major Problems

A pre-purchase inspection often reveals previous repair work that was performed poorly, which may affect your decision to purchase the vehicle. Common examples of poor repairs include improperly installed modifications and shoddy bodywork. Frame damage is one of the most common major problems that are detected by a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. This generally indicates that the vehicle has been in a collision, and usually requires repair. Frame damage can cause the vehicle to pull to one side while driving it, which can damage the tires.

A pre-purchase inspection can show that the previous owner was a regular smoker. The smell of smoke won’t be apparent when you are purchasing the vehicle remotely, but it is almost impossible to remove. It’s also important for an inspection to determine when a vehicle has been damaged by flooding. This type of damage often means that vehicle will require extensive repairs.


Pre-purchase inspections may generally be classified into those that involve taking the vehicle to a garage and those where the inspector goes to you. A garage will probably have a lift that raises the vehicle completely off the ground, allowing the inspector access to the undercarriage of the vehicle. A dealership that sells a particular brand of vehicle is likely to have greater expertise in inspecting those vehicles.

The primary advantage of a mobile inspection service is convenience. The inspector can inspect your vehicle while you are at home or at work and is usually able to print out a report on the spot. A mobile inspector may also photograph the vehicle from multiple angles to document body damage.

Justin Habersaat is the Sr. Editor of Auto Content at helps make online car buying simple and fun by providing pictures, prices and info on cars for sale in cities all over the USA, as well as articles, tips and guidance to make the car shopping process a cinch. Phoenix car shoppers can find their dream car at