Why and How to Inspect a Used Vehicle Prior to Purchase

By Naylor's Auto Repair on Mon, 06/26/2023 - 09:51

Because new cars typically lose around 20% to 30% of their value within the first year, purchasing a used car can be a wise choice to save money and reduce the amount you lose to vehicle depreciation. However, without a thorough pre-purchase inspection, you run the risk of purchasing a lemon that may cost you more in repairs and frustration in the long run.

Here, you’ll find a checklist of key areas to assess during an inspection on a used vehicle, but first, let’s establish why you shouldn’t skimp on inspecting a used car before you buy it.

Why Invest in a Used Car Pre-Purchase Inspection?

Uncover Hidden Issues:

Used cars have a history, and it's crucial to know what you're getting into. A comprehensive inspection by a qualified mechanic can help uncover hidden problems that might not be apparent during a casual test drive. Issues uncovered in the process of a pre-purchase inspection could include engine problems, transmission issues, electrical malfunctions, or worn-out components. By identifying issues upfront, you can make an informed decision about whether the car is worth the investment or if it will require too many expensive repairs.

Ensure Safety:

Your safety and the safety of your passengers is likely a top priority for you. A thorough inspection can identify potential safety hazards that might compromise a vehicle’s integrity. An experienced mechanic will check critical vehicle systems such as brakes, tires, suspension, steering, and lights to ensure they meet safety standards. Addressing safety issues before purchase can prevent accidents and provide peace of mind on the road.

Negotiating Power:

If a pre-purchase inspection reveals any mechanical or cosmetic issues, it gives you leverage to negotiate a lower price or request the seller to fix the problems before finalizing the deal. Armed with a professional inspection report, you can make a stronger case for reducing the asking price to compensate for the required repairs. In some cases, you might even decide to walk away from the deal altogether if the issues are too significant or the seller is unwilling to address them.

Long-term Cost Savings:

While a used car may appear to be a good deal initially, it's important to consider the long-term costs and total cost of ownership. By having a used car inspected, you can avoid purchasing a vehicle with costly hidden issues that would require frequent repairs and maintenance. Investing in a thorough inspection upfront can potentially save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Used Vehicle Inspection Checklist

When inspecting a used car, pay attention to these key areas:


Look for signs of rust, dents, and paint inconsistencies. Check the condition of the tires, windshield, and lights.


Inspect the upholstery, dashboard, and controls for wear and tear. Test the functionality of all buttons, switches, and features such as the air conditioning, audio system, and power windows.


Examine the engine bay for oil leaks, fluid levels, and the overall cleanliness. Listen for unusual noises or vibrations during idle and acceleration.


Test the transmission by smoothly shifting through all gears, checking for any delays, slipping, or rough shifting.

Suspension and Steering:

Evaluate the suspension by bouncing each corner of the car and ensuring it returns to its normal position. Check for excessive play or stiffness in the steering wheel.


Assess the brake pads, rotors, and brake fluid. Test the brakes for responsiveness and signs of vibration or noise.

Inspecting a used car before purchase is an essential step to ensure you make an informed decision and avoid costly surprises down the road. By following a comprehensive checklist and seeking the assistance of a qualified mechanic, you can confidently navigate the used car market and find a reliable vehicle that suits your needs and budget.

See what's included in a used vehicle pre-purchase inspection at Naylor's Auto Repair.

If you'd like a professional independent mechanic to take a look at your next potential used vehicle purchase, Contact us today for an appointment!