Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Cost

Know what price you should pay to get your vehicle fixed.

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.
Note about price: The cost of this service or repair can vary by location, your vehicle's make and model, and even your engine type. Related repairs may also be needed. Talk with a RepairPal Certified shop to learn which repairs might be right for you.

What does a pre-purchase car inspection include?

A PPI usually starts with an inspection of the interior, exterior and under-hood areas of the vehicle. In addition, there can be a diagnostic scan, additional engine tests and an in-depth test drive.

The inspection should include checks of:

  • Tires and suspension components
  • Braking system parts and lines
  • Fuel lines, gas tank and exhaust system
  • Electrical components, including the stereo, wiring, battery, charging system, and internal and external lights
  • Engine components, such as drive belts, cooling system and fluids
  • Air conditioner and heater
  • The car’s body, glass and frame, as well as the condition of the interior 

A test drive is essential

Once the above checks are complete, it’s time for a test drive. This can uncover a variety of issues that you’ll want to know about. 

Wheel alignment and suspension issues: If the vehicle pulls to one side of the road, or if it wanders back and forth when it should be going straight, that’s a problem. It can be caused by improper alignment settings or worn suspension components. If it makes a crashing sound when you hit a bump or pothole, the shock absorbers could need replacing.

Steering issues: These include excessive play in the wheel from worn steering components, or difficulty turning the wheel due to problems with the power steering.

Braking issues: These can include vibration or shaking during braking, usually due to warped brake rotors. Having to apply excessive force to the brake pedal usually indicates a problem with the brake assist system. Squealing or chirping may indicate glazed rotors or other problems with brake components.

Engine issues: The engine should idle and accelerate smoothly, and run at a normal temperature without overheating. 

Transmission issues: Transmission can get expensive quickly, so the inspector will want to make sure it shifts smoothly and shows no signs of slipping. If it’s a manual, the clutch should be in good condition.

Noises: Cars can make a whole range of noises, and they can come from a variety of sources and indicate many different problems. Squeaks and rattles can be caused by loose or rubbing interior panels. Wind noises can be caused by misaligned windows or worn seals. Clunks and rattling can indicate loose or broken vehicle component mounts, among other things.

How long does a pre-purchase inspection take?

Pre-purchase inspections usually take about an hour, but can range from as short as 30 minutes to as long as a couple of hours, depending on the technician and the condition of the vehicle. In some cases, the PPI technician may request that the car be left overnight, so that he or she can observe the vehicle when it’s cold.

When do I need a pre-purchase car inspection?

Pre-purchase inspections are recommended any time you buy a used vehicle. It’s cheap insurance against many potential expensive problems.

While a PPI is valuable when buying a used car locally, it becomes even more important if you but one that’s outside your area, through an online auction, for instance. You’ll want some assurance that the vehicle is worth paying for before you seal the deal and have it delivered.

Look for someone who can take a look at the car and then report back to you. Or, if you’re buying a classic or special interest car, the national owners’ club for that brand might be able to help you out. 

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