How Much Does It Cost To Have A Mechanic Inspect A Used Car?

Updated November, 2020
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It's a good idea to have your car inspected by a professional mechanic at least once annually. A thorough inspection should cost you between $100 and $250 depending on where you live. And this often includes both a safety and mechanical inspection as well as a test drive.

Here's why getting a pre-purchase inspection is essential

A pre-purchase inspection (PPI) occurs when a licensed auto technician or mechanic thoroughly inspects a vehicle. The professional looks at the safety, mechanical, and cosmetic condition of the car. From there, the mechanic highlights any potential issues that could arise in the future and recommends necessary repairs. This helps give the buyer confidence before making such an expensive purchase.

A PPI is essential before buying any used vehicle from a private seller. It's less necessary when buying a car from a dealership because the business should have paperwork showing the condition and history of the vehicle. Still, it's a good idea to get it anyway, and many dealerships even have mechanics on-site who can walk you through the car to show how well everything has held up.

In either scenario, you want to go to an auto shop or mobile mechanic to get this job done. It's not recommended to just have a friend do it, regardless of how knowledgeable he or she is about cars. You want someone who knows what to look for and who has your best interest at heart. It may take some time for the inspection to take place, and you should wait accordingly. Never let any seller pressure you into buying a car before it's been thoroughly inspected.

What does a car inspection cost, and what does it cover?

For the most part, an inspection should only cost between $100 and $250. It's typically the responsibility of the buyer to pay for the inspection. Dealerships often have people on-site who can do this job for you. And when buying from any private party, the seller should be willing to allow you to hire someone to look at the vehicle. An inspection should cover every facet of the vehicle, including:

  • Engine
  • Exterior
  • Tires
  • Brakes
  • Fluids
  • Hoses
  • Belts
  • Radiator

The car inspection report shows some damage, now what?

It's possible the inspection comes back less than stellar. In the event there are minor damages, then you may be able to use them to negotiate a lower price. Perhaps you can make an arrangement with the seller to take care of those damages before you buy the car.  You can use the report as leverage by saying you're going to have to pay for those repairs, so you want a lower price.

On the other hand, an inspection may reveal significant damages. In this instance, you should probably back out of the deal entirely. Fixing it is likely going to cost too much. And you're better off finding a more reliable vehicle.

Tips when buying a used car

Buying a used car is a great way to save some money. However, you have to be extra careful because the seller may try to hide certain aspects of the vehicle. Whether you're buying from a private seller or a used car dealership, it's important to keep the following tips in mind.

  • Run a vehicle history report through a service like AutoCheck or CARFAX
  • Take it for a test drive and take note of anything that doesn't feel right
  • Check the tires, including how much tread is left
  • Examine the dash lights to ensure nothing turns on that shouldn't
  • Inspect for engine sludge

Should I use the mechanic my insurance recommends?

Unfortunately, private sellers aren't always 100% truthful on the condition of their vehicle. While not common, you should still take necessary precautions, including taking your car to an auto shop your insurance recommends. They have an established working relationship and have garnered the trust of your insurance company to provide the best service possible.

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