How to inspect a used car before buying

At one point or another, everyone has used car questions. One of the most common ones is based around how to inspect a used car before buying. In the end, it's not that difficult, especially if you know what to look out for. For starters, there are sound, general practices to follow, such as:

  • Take the vehicle for a road test. If possible, travel on a variety of roads -- such as residential, country and highway -- to get a better feel how the car handles at different speeds and conditions.
  • Purchase a vehicle history report to alert you to indications of flood damage, severe accidents and other red flags.
  • Ask for maintenance and repair records from the seller.

Perhaps the most important used car buying advice we can offer, though, is to hire a mechanic to check the secondhand car.



Why this piece of used car buying advice is so important:

Unless you’re skilled at spotting potential car trouble, it’s wise to get a mechanic to check a secondhand car. Sure, this will cost you some money upfront. Most secondhand car inspections are around $100. But, this inspection can save you money, too:

  • If the mechanic identifies weaknesses in the car that need immediate repair, you can use this information to negotiate a lower price with the seller.
  • The mechanic may also see that the vehicle has been poorly maintained, and alert you that you’ll be looking at multiple repair jobs in the near future. Again, you could use this get a better price. Or, you may just want to pass on the car, and save yourself the money and hassle of dealing with a lot of repair work.

Most importantly, if there are major safety issues with the car, an inspection could prevent you from being seriously injured. Of course, there’s the bright side, too. A glowing report from your mechanic will give you some peace of mind and an extra bit of confidence about your investment.

A mechanic can help answer used car questions even with remote purchases.

Did you know you can get a mechanic to check a secondhand car even if the vehicle isn’t located nearby? Remote mechanic inspection services are available throughout the country. Here’s how it works. A mechanic with a mobile unit will go to where the car is located, perform the inspection on the spot and send you a detailed report of the findings. The report will often be accompanied by photos of the vehicle taken from different angles so you can spot any dents, scratches or other imperfections. With mobile inspections, the mechanic can’t get the vehicle on a lift. So, this report won’t be as detailed. But, even so, a mobile report is well worth the money.

Sometimes a seller (local or remote) won’t allow a mechanic to inspect the car. What should you do in those cases? The smart move is to walk away. It’s entirely reasonable to ask for an inspection. After all, you’re considering a major investment. If a seller refuses the inspection, it’s probably because of what you might find out from the report.

Editor's note: We hope you've found this installment on how to inspect a used car before buying helpful. Visit an Advance Auto Parts store for a wide selection of quality auto parts for all makes and models. 

Last updated May 10, 2019