Purchasing a used vehicle can be risky. When excited buyers get emotionally caught up in the vehiclepurchase, they often miss mechanical, cosmetic, and safety issues during visual inspections and test drives.These problems are compounded if the vehicle being purchased is located in another city and is purchasedprior to being seen in person. To eliminate much of the anxiety and get an accurate picture of the conditionof the vehicle, many buyers choose to have a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) done before the sale is final.
What is a pre-purchase inspection?
A pre-purchase inspection is a detailed assessmentby a qualified individual to determine the cosmetic,mechanical, and safety condition of a vehicle beforecompleting the purchase. Most pre-purchaseinspections are done by a certified mechanic orautomotive technician who is knowledgeable in themake and model of the vehicle being inspected. Theintent of the PPI is to uncover existing conditions orto reveal maintenance shortcomings that maybecome potential safety or financial issues for thebuyer in the future.
When should I get a PPI?
A pre-purchase inspection is highly recommended when purchasing a vehicle without a warranty, or whenthe vehicle is located in another city. When there is no warranty, the buyer is immediately assuming all therisk in the event of a breakdown or major mechanical issue. For this reason, a qualified PPI makes financialsense. Vehicles in other cities present additional challenges when the purchaser is unable to take a testdrive. With just a few phone calls, you can often arrange a PPI with a local shop where the seller can dropthe vehicle off for a few hours. The resulting PPI report gives the buyer added security during a long-distance transaction.
Where can I get a PPI?
A pre-purchase inspection can be done by any competent mechanic or automotive technician whounderstands the vehicle you are purchasing. Automobile dealerships and independent specialty shops areexcellent resources for a thorough PPI, and they will be familiar with the process. In addition to thetraditional automotive shops, there are now national specialized mobile PPI operations that will inspectvehicles almost anywhere in the country. You can conduct an online search for “Pre-Purchase Inspection” tofind larger operations.
What should be inspected?
Unfortunately, there isn’t an industry-wide accepted standard or schedule for a PPI. The cost of theinspection generally determines the depth and detail of the inspection. A basic inspection will be mostlyvisual, which includes putting the car on a hydraulic lift and checking for leaks or broken components. Amore involved inspection will include a detailed road test where components such as steering and brakes canbe assessed. A thorough inspection will include checking engine compression and a computer engineanalysis.
How much should it cost, and who pays?
The buyer typically pays for the pre-purchase inspection. A basic PPI will cost $100 to $200. For that price,you can expect a good overall mechanical and safety inspection (including a test drive) of the vehicle. Adetailed inspection of a complex luxury automobile, with extensive engine tests, could cost several hundreddollars or more.