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Saturn LS1 Pre-Purchase Car Inspection Cost

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

The average cost for a Saturn LS1 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.

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Why get a pre-purchase car inspection?

If you're considering buying a used car, a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is vital. It's a comprehensive examination of a used vehicle by an independent, expert mechanic. It can reveal problems that you otherwise might not recognize.

The PPI is your defense against unscrupulous sellers, neglectful previous owners and documentation gaps or mistakes. A PPI is well worth the cost, and the hour or so it takes — the Federal Trade Commission agrees.

Many used cars will look good on the surface, with glossy paint, shiny chrome trim and clean interiors. But it’s what’s under the skin that counts. Some of the things that you should know include:

  • Was it properly maintained?
  • Was it in any major accidents?
  • Was it flooded or totaled?
  • Does it have any problems that could soon lead to costly repairs?

This is where a PPI can save you a great deal of aggravation, and money. 

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. 

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

If a seller won’t allow a pre-purchase inspection, there’s a good chance they’re hiding a serious issue. Consider this as a big red flag and walk away. There will be plenty of other suitable vehicles worth your hard-earned money.

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

While pre-purchase inspections are relatively affordable, there are a few things you can do to weed out some cars before getting that far, thus possibly saving you some money. 

Research the vehicle thoroughly: Check reliability ratings for the year and model of car you’re considering, and look at owners’ reviews of the vehicle. Stay away from troublesome cars that require expensive repairs.

In addition, research the potential insurance cost for the car. You can find this out from your insurance agent. 

Run a vehicle history report: This is done by submitting the vehicle’s VIN to a service that provides these types of reports. You can usually find your VIN on the driver-side top of the dashboard, or on the driver-side door jamb. 

A vehicle history report will usually include information on when and where the vehicle has been purchased and sold, service history, any accidents, smog tests passed and failed, and open recalls. The is no guarantee that the vehicle history report is complete, but it’s a good place to start. 

Find out everything you can from the seller: Ask for service records, which can prove that the vehicle was properly maintained. If you are in a state that requires smog inspections, ask to see the most recent smog certificate. 

Get a good look at the pink slip or title to verify that the seller has clear title to the vehicle, without any liens. A “salvage” title is a red flag, indicating that the vehicle was previously totaled, and may have severe problems. Also ask why he or she is selling it now. 

Do a basic visual inspection: Check under the hood, under the vehicle, inside the trunk and around the interior. Look for excessive wear, rust, and any signs of an accident. Make sure that the tires have adequate tread, that all the lights work, and that all features operate as they should.

Drive the vehicle yourself: Start it up and let it idle for a while. Walk around the vehicle, listening for odd noises and a smooth idle. Keep an eye out for any smoke or dripping fluids.

Next, take it for a drive. Make sure that it accelerates, brakes and corners well, without any problems or odd noises. It should stay straight, without pulling to one side. Hit a few bumps or potholes — the suspension should be able to handle them without crashing or bottoming out. 

Take it on a highway, where it should be able to achieve and maintain a normal cruising speed without complaint. Do a few lane changes to verify that it handles well at highway speeds. Be sure that you are satisfied with the vehicle’s seating position and comfort, the all-around visibility from the driver’s seat, and the setup and operation of the controls. 

After your test drive, park the vehicle on a clean section of pavement. Let it idle, checking for any leaks or noises that may only appear once the vehicle is warm. Shut it off, then check back several minutes later for additional leaks.

If everything seems fine, get a PPI: If the used vehicle in question still appears to be in good condition, without any apparent major flaws, you can now arrange for a pre-purchase inspection.

Who can perform a pre-purchase inspection?

Your best option is to have an ASE certified technician perform your PPI. While many repair facilities allow all their technicians to conduct these inspections, not all of them may be ASE certified. Ask that the work be done by someone with an ASE certification, or even better, by an ASE certified master technician.

In-shop or mobile?

There are two basic ways of doing a PPI. One is done in a mechanic’s shop, and the other is done by a mobile inspector, who comes to the vehicle’s location, inspects it there, and produces a report for you.

If you already have a good relationship with a mechanic that you trust, then having the PPI done at the shop is your best option. A mechanic will have all the specialized equipment needed to diagnose any problem areas. The shop will also have a lift, which lets your mechanic get a good look at the underside of the vehicle. 

A mobile PPI is more convenient and quicker, but it may not be as thorough as the PPI done in a shop.  Still, it’s a good option if the vehicle is a long distance away from you.

What happens after you receive your PPI report?

After the technician has completed the PPI, review the report carefully. There are usually three possible outcomes: 

1. The vehicle is essentially problem-free, and you can buy with confidence. 

2. The vehicle has some minor problems that can be easily fixed and won’t affect its long-term reliability. You can use the cost of repairs as leverage to get the seller to lower the purchase price, or you can walk away if you don’t want to deal with it.

3. The vehicle has one or more major problems that will be expensive to repair. You can ask the seller to make repairs, offer a much lower price, or simply walk away and find a vehicle that’s in better condition.