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Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Cost

The average cost for a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection is between $105 and $134. Labor costs are estimated between $105 and $134. Estimate does not include taxes and fees.

How Much Does a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Cost?

Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Estimates
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Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Service and Cost

Why get a pre-purchase car inspection?

No protective measure is better when selling or purchasing a vehicle, than to have a third-party, professional technician perform a pre-purchase inspection before a transaction is made. Getting a professional pre-purchase inspection (PPI) on a vehicle before you buy can be the best decision you make in the purchase process. It can tell you about not only the immediate but also future needed repairs. These will help you determine if the entire cost of the vehicle, including the needed repairs, are within your budget.

Even more important than dollars saved is you and your passengers' safety. Most states in the U.S. do not require annual vehicle safety inspections, so the responsibility is on you and a trusted mechanic to ensure the vehicle you buy is safe to drive.

What does a pre-purchase car inspection include?

There are two categories of inspections: basic and comprehensive.

A basic inspection usually includes a visual inspection of the interior, exterior, and under-hood of the vehicle. It may also include a basic component test and test drive.

A comprehensive inspection includes everything in a basic inspection, as well as other services, such as a diagnostic scan, additional engine tests, and a more in-depth test drive.

  • Visual inspection: When a visual inspection is performed, the technician may find body damage, hidden or unreported repairs of collision damage, as well as any manner of leaks, including engine oil, transmission, differential, brake fluid, fuel, coolant, and power steering. He or she will also look for worn or corroded components and will check the general condition of the vehicle’s interior. He or she will also check for worn or uneven wear on tires. Uneven tire wear is usually an indicator of improper alignment, which may be caused by worn suspension components or off settings.
  • Vehicle body inspection: When checking the body of the vehicle, the technician will check whether the paint color matches on all panels and if there is over-spray in between or underneath body panels. This is usually an indicator of a re-paint, which if not disclosed by the seller, could be hiding previous collision damage. Other things technicians can look for while assessing body damage are cracked welds, uneven panel gaps, or bent frames, and he or she will use a magnet to check for thick body filler.
  • Worn or corroded components: Some of the common worn or corroded components that can be identified during a PPI may include batteries, cables, tires, belts, fluid condition, brake/fuel lines, exhaust, gas tank, and rust on body or frame of the vehicle.
  • Test drive: A test drive will help the technician identify problems such as:
    • Alignment issues, which are usually identified when a vehicle either pulls to one side of the road or tends to wander from one side to the other. This can be caused by improper settings or worn suspension components.
    • Noises, which may come from many sources and indicate different problems. Squeaks and rattles are usually caused by interior panels. Wind noises are usually caused by misaligned windows or worn seals. Clunks and rattling may also indicate loose or broken vehicle component mounts.
    • Steering issues, usually related to suspension/alignment. Other issues with steering may include hard turning, which usually indicates a problem with the power assist system or if the driver experiences excessive play it may be any component from the steering column down to the suspension.
    • Braking issues, which may include vibration/shaking during braking, which usually indicates warped brake rotors. Having to apply excessive force to brakes for a complete stop usually indicates a problem with the brake assist system. Squealing or chirping may indicate glazed rotors or other problems with brake components.
How long does a pre-purchase inspection take?

Pre-purchase inspections usually take around an hour, but can range from as quick as thirty minutes to as long as a couple hours. In some cases the technician might request the car be left overnight, so they can observe the vehicle when it is cold.

When do I need a pre-purchase car inspection?

Pre-purchase inspections are recommended anytime you buy a used vehicle. Ideally, both parties in a vehicle sale should have an inspection completed. If one party decides not to complete an inspection, that party may have no claim to the condition of the vehicle prior to the transaction.

Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Repair Information

What If the seller won't allow a pre-purchase inspection?

If a seller will not allow a pre-purchase car inspection, the chances are high that they are aware of a serious issue. In this case you may want to reconsider purchasing the vehicle and instead look for another that can be properly inspected for any problems before you spend your hard-earned time and money.

What else should I do to ensure I’m making a wise purchase?

In addition to a PPI, here are some additional things you can do to make sure you make the right purchase decision and protect the value of this major investment:

  • Run a vehicle history report. This is done by submitting your VIN (vehicle identification number) to a service that provides these types of reports. You can usually find your VIN on the driver-side top of the dashboard or the driver-side door jam. 
  • Drive the car as much as possible before you buy it and then write down any abnormalities you noticed during your drive.
  • Let the car idle for an extended period of time.
  • Make sure to test out all the gadgets and functions of the vehicle.
Who can perform a pre-purchase inspection?

Many repair facilities allow their shop hands to conduct pre-purchase inspections, but these are not always ASE certified technicians. Pre-purchase inspections are generally not recognized should you need it, unless it was performed by an ASE technician, so make sure you request the work to be completed by an ASE certified technician, or, if possible, an ASE certified master technician.

Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Cost Estimates
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