Why You Should Get a Thorough Vehicle Inspection before Buying a Used Car

Car on ramp in garage picture

There is perhaps no better advice when it comes to buying a used car than to have an experienced mechanic inspect it before you buy it. It is a bad idea to plunk down a large amount of cash after just a test drive and a look at what’s under the hood with an untrained eye. Surprisingly enough, most buyers do exactly this, because they don’t know that professionals are ready and willing to provide consultations.

Any credible car seller will be more than willing to have the car inspected, as a proof of their credibility. Any hesitation on their part will and should be interpreted as the fact that they’re hiding something from the buyer.

Top-to-Bottom Inspection Is Necessary

After a thorough and rigorous test drive, the next step of the evaluation would be to get someone to check out the specific details, from make and model to wear and tear. A trained professional should easily be able to assess the condition of the engine, gears, brakes and other peripherals, and also the interior and exterior of the vehicle.

Standard Procedure

Looking for an inspector is usually really easy because most service centers like repair stores, independent garages, and some dealerships have a mechanism in place for pre-purchase inspection. Most of them provide quick but detailed outlines of the points of inspection they will follow and the appraisal methodology. This holds true for any good inspection. You could check the Lemon Squad website for details on the procedure. The standard items provided are:

  • Verifying the condition of the vehicle
  • Checking equipment
  • Revealing hidden issues with frame, body, and engine
  • Finding engine codes which could bring out problems

Common Faults Detected

There are a number of issues which may have escaped you on your cursory inspection, but which can easily be unearthed by a trained professional. Some of these are:

Damaged Frames: Frame damage is an indicator of serious accidents. If not repaired correctly, it means the structural integrity of the vehicle has been compromised. This, in turn, would cause the wheels to track improperly, pulling the vehicle to one side and causing tire damage and even accidents.

Poor Repair Work or Patchwork: A lot of used cars have had sketchy repairs performed on them in the past by the previous owners and in some cases even by the dealership to make them look good enough to sell. Any experienced mechanic will be able to point out instances of shoddy repair work which could allow you to decide whether you should drop the car or buy it, and if you do, how you should bargain due to the poor condition, and how much you would need to spend to get it corrected.

Effects of Smoking: Cars sold over eBay and other online platforms could easily gloss over important facts like whether the previous owner was a smoker. It may seem like an insignificant detail, but the truth is that cigarette smoke gets into the upholstery and the headliner of the vehicle and the smell is impossible to eradicate. This should drive the value of the car down significantly.

Effects of Flooding: A vehicle history inspection can help you understand if the car was damaged in a flood unless the title was falsified. It is then important for you to hire an inspector who can check every nook and cranny for any signs of water damage.

Checking the Tow Hitch: If you are purchasing a truck that already has a 5th wheel hitch installed for towing capabilities, then you really want to ensure that this is functioning correctly. Repairing such an item can set you back a considerable sum of money and replacing one will cost you a whole lot more!

Types of Inspection – Mobile and Garage

There are two different mechanisms of inspection, mobile, and garage. Each method has its perks and pitfalls, but both guarantee results. Mobile inspections are convenient, as the inspector would come down to the site and do all the work there. Detailed reports are generated on spot too. On the other hand, the garage inspections allow your inspector to have access to tons of specialized equipment like hydraulic lifts and other tools, which allow more thorough inspection.


A trained eye should be able to help you identify any issues which would cost you in the future, and also provide a proper appraisal which would help you decide whether the vehicle is worth the money. It is, hence, a very good idea to spare an hour of your time and a very small portion of your money for a proper inspection.

Frank Maroni is an automobile engineer and the co-owner of a top car dealership in Delaware. He writes a blog all about cars, ranging from reviews of new vehicles in the market to tips for car care, and also sharing useful resources for buying and selling used cars like the Lemon Squad website.