In the past, it was standard procedure to get your used car inspected before registering it for tags. Today, few states require this, but it’s still advisable to get an inspection before you buy a new-to-you used car. A used car inspection can shed light on problems that lurk below the surface and may affect your decision of whether to buy or how much you are willing to pay. Here’s what you need to know about getting a car inspection before you buy a vehicle.
How to get a private mechanic inspection
Freelance mechanics work on an array of vehicle makes and models, so their inspection methods must be broader than that of a dealership that works with just a specialized group of vehicles. This means most of the inspection is hands-on, as opposed to relying on a custom scan tool.
Choose a mechanic. Look for one with a good reputation for customer service and quality work. You may already have a private service technician you trust with your automotive needs.
If you don’t, ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations. You can also consult reviews online at the Better Business Bureau or through a search engine. There are more mobile mechanics who will conduct a pre-purchase inspection than ever before.
Schedule an inspection. Most private mechanics conduct business by phone rather than online, so plan to call and set up an appointment. Expect to pay a small fee to compensate the technician for time, but some professionals provide inspection services for free in the hopes that you will use them for any needed repairs or maintenance work.
How to get an inspection through a dealership
Dealerships specialize in a handful of makes and models compared to the array of vehicles a private mechanic services. Consequently, they have access to specific scan tools to diagnose issues with vehicles that are more powerful than the generic scan tool private mechanics or auto parts stores have. These tools provide the basis of their inspections, but they also physically inspect used cars, too.
Make an appointment. Find your local dealership, and set up an appointment for a used car inspection by phone or online.
Many dealerships have scheduling software integrated with their websites, making appointment setting a thing of ease.
Arrive early. Show up five to 10 minutes ahead of your appointment to allow time to fill out any paperwork. When the dealership’s service technician is finished inspecting your car, you will be provided with a list of recommended maintenance and repairs along with an estimate of cost.
Pay the dealership. There is a charge for the inspection service, which is often around $100. Then, decide if you want any necessary repairs or maintenance to be performed by the dealership or another mechanic.
With both types of used car inspections, expect a technician to check the following things and more: body, engine, fluid levels, interior, suspension system, and tires. The mechanic will also likely drive your car to see first-hand how it performs and follow up further with any causes for concern.