Just as you would never purchase a house without having it inspected, you should never purchase a used vehicle without having a knowledgeable ASE certified automotive technician carefully examine it first. For most people, purchasing a vehicle is the second largest purchase they make in their lives. During a pre-purchase inspection, the automotive technician will thoroughly inspect the vehicle you are considering buying. The technician will look for mechanical and maintenance issues and assess the vehicle’s current safety condition. The importance of a pre-purchase vehicle inspection cannot be understated, and a third party, independent inspection will help you trust your decision.

A pre-purchase inspection is, without a doubt, the most important step in the used vehicle buying process. Once you find a vehicle you love, it is easy to want it just because of its looks, the color, the wheels, the stereo, amenities, comfort, price, and the way it drives. The tangible things are what first attracted you to the vehicle, but it is the unknown and hidden things that can make your purchase a disaster. After all, what is under the hood and under the vehicle’s body are actually more important than how it looks on the outside.


Hopefully, as a result of the inspection the automotive technician will give you a thumbs-up and you can go ahead and purchase the vehicle. However, if instead they alert you to a problem, multiple problems or any areas of concern, you will still be thankful for the inspection and know it was money well invested. Knowing the truth about the vehicle’s condition, you’ll be able to make an informed and confident decision. The decision may be to walk away, to negotiate a better price, to add a stipulation to the purchase agreement or to buy the vehicle as is for a fair price. Plus, a thorough used vehicle inspection will help you anticipate future maintenance needs of the vehicle and budget for this accordingly. It is undoubtedly worth your while and the expense associated with the inspection.The automotive technician should examine the vehicle thoroughly. This comprehensive inspection should include all of the following and more:

  • Test drive
  • Computer system readiness monitor check
  • Dash warning light inspection and bulb check
  • Tires
  • Steering linkage
  • Electrical system components
  • Ignition system components
  • Suspension components
  • HVAC system
  • Glass and windshield wipers/washers
  • Exterior lights
  • Brakes
  • Radiator and cooling system
  • Hoses
  • Belts
  • Fluid levels and condition
  • Exhaust system
  • Battery and charging system
  • Inspection for any fluid leaks

Scheduling a pre-purchase vehicle inspection is not difficult. If you’re able to borrow the vehicle from the dealer or the private seller, schedule an inspection and drive it there. If the dealer won’t let you drive the vehicle off the lot, ask if they would be willing to accompany you to the shop. Although you could find a business that provides mobile auto inspections, this sort of examination won’t be as thorough or conclusive as an inspection performed at an automotive repair shop. A mobile inspection will not lift the vehicle on the hoist and allow for an inspection of the components under the vehicle and a close inspection for leaks.Most sellers will let you take the vehicle for an inspection. If the seller hesitates, you have to wonder what they may be hiding. So, if you are buying a used vehicle, do the smart thing and have an independent, third party mechanic (unrelated to the used car dealer) inspect the vehicle. While no inspection is guaranteed to find every flaw in a used vehicle, a trained eye will help you avoid serious problems. Given the fact that thousands of dollars are at stake, an hour of your time and the cost of the inspection is good insurance against the unknown.