Ask Bill – Pre-Purchase Inspections – 7 Steps To Buying Confidently

Our clients trust us with their cars and when it comes time to purchase another used vehicle many times they’ll call the shop to see what we’ve heard about certain models and if we have any vehicles for sale.  We also receive many questions regarding how to go about finding a good, used vehicle for sale.  Regardless of where you may find a car for sale I will always recommend a Pre-Purchase Inspection.

About a year ago I wrote about used vehicle purchases and inspections  here.  In today’s post I will focus on the Pre-Purchase Inspection.  Buying a used vehicle can be a huge trap if you are not careful.

This time of year means two things; tax season and used car season.  The used car market swells this time of year as many enterprising individuals and companies want to take advantage of cash in people’s pockets.  Some car lots will start stockpiling cars in November and December in anticipation of their busy season.  Sometimes they need to put some work and repairs into these cars and if quality work isn’t done, you’ll end up with a headache.

As a Licensed Ohio E-Check Repair Facility we see many cars that have failed E-Check and in many cases these cars were just purchased.  Talk about frustrated!! Now these folks own this problem.

Why is a Pre-Purchase Inspection important?  Having trained eyes on your potential purchase can help you avoid a mistake or confirm that you’ve found a gem.  This small investment will help identify any potential headaches.

So what gets inspected?  I’ll explain how we approach a Pre-Purchase Inspection.

Digital Used Car Inspection
  1. We test drive the vehicle.  We’re listening for anything that doesn’t seem right such as noises and rattles.  We’re checking the alignment, how it steers, how it accelerates and how it stops.
  2. Once in the shop we inspect the exterior, wipers, the glass and the lighting.
  3. Under the hood our technician is looking for the condition of hoses, belts, ignition components and the air filter.  Fluids are inspected.  We test the alternator and the battery.
  4. Inside the car we’re testing all electrical components —> lights, horn, HVAC, radio, windows, etc.  We test the heat and the A/C.  We also investigate the dash cluster for any lights such as check engine, TPMS, ABS, TSC, VSC, and air bag.
  5. Under the car all steering and suspension components are inspected and tested for looseness.  Brake and fuel lines are looked over for rust and potential leaks.  The technician is looking around the engine and transmission for leaks.  He’s checking the axles and, if equipped, the transfer case and differential(s).  An inspection of the exhaust will uncover any holes or issues.
  6. We remove the wheels and tires to inspect the brakes.  Checking the condition of the pads, rotors, calipers and hoses will identify any braking issues.
  7. Lastly, the car’s computer is scanned for codes.  We’re looking for pending, history and current codes that might suggest a recent repair was made or if there’s an issue  lurking.

All of the  information and notes that our technician takes is recorded into a three page report which is reviewed with our client.  I also encourage our client to talk with our technician about the inspection and take a walk around and under the vehicle to better understand the inspection results.  As you can see in the picture above we are moving to digital inspections which are performed on a tablet and results can be texted and emailed.

Buying a car is a big investment.  Investing a little in a Pre-Purchase Inspection will help make sure you are investing your money wisely.  How much is an inspection like this?  Usually between $45 & $90.  Well worth it


About Ask Bill…

As you may imagine, I receive many car related questions at the shop.  Phone calls inquiring about noises, dash board indicator lights and maintenance related matters. So I thought I’d turn those questions into future articles.  Stay tuned…