Pre Purchase Inspection

Experts agree that used cars must be inspected by a qualified specialist before the final negotiation for purchase. The ordinary car buyer, even if mechanically savvy, really can't do it justice. A thorough, professional inspection can tell you whether you're about to buy a peach or a lemon.

The inspection should include a test drive over a route that includes hills, bumps and potholes to reveal suspension problems and engine performance issues. Having a third party inspect and test the vehicle establishes trust and increases your familiarity with the car. Sure, there's a ton of information available on the web about every model, but what you need at this juncture is detailed information about this particular car. A professional inspection will tell you both what might be wrong with this vehicle and also what's right with it.

Smart sellers, too, know the value of a presale inspection. Having the car thoroughly scrutinized by a reliable third party before listing it provides an additional selling point in the form of a written report. While this is useful information and lends credibility to the seller, you should still insist on getting your own independent inspection before making the purchase.

Automotive experts agree that a good inspection serves several functions. It:

  • Verifies the functioning of equipment, including options, on the car.

  • Confirms the condition level of the car, including such things as tire wear and the condition of the brake pads.

  • Reveals hidden problems with the body, frame or engine.

  • Checks trouble codes that can reveal mechanical or electrical problems.

  • Builds confidence in the value of the vehicle.

Major problems that can be spotted by a good inspector include:

  • Frame damage. If the frame shows damage, it indicates the car has been in a serious accident. Unless it has been repaired correctly, the wheels might not track properly, causing the vehicle to pull to one side and lead to premature tire wear.

  • Poor previous repair work. This could range from improper engine service to sloppy bodywork to improper installation of accessories or modifications.

  • Flood damage or fire damage. A vehicle history report can red-flag a car that has been in a flood or fire unless its title has been falsified. You might not spot the fake title, but an inspector can identify the telltale signs of damage.

Other issues an inspection can reveal include hidden rust, fluid leaks, burned-out bulbs, nonfunctioning accessories, suspicious odors and overdue maintenance procedures.

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