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Shopping for a used car can be risky, and it is impossible to know the condition of the vehicle just by looking.
That is why so many buyers choose to have a thorough pre-purchase inspection done by a mechanic or garage.
While the pre-purchase inspection is an important part of the used car buying process, many buyers are unsure how to go about it.
These tips can help you get a better look at the used car you are considering.
1. Ask A both a Pre-Purchase Inspection Up Front
Many buyers skip the pre-purchase inspection because they fear that a private seller may not be willing to let the car off their property long enough to do the evaluation.
If this is a concern, make it clear that you plan to have a pre purchase inspection done if you like the vehicle after a test drive.
Getting that out of the way up front can avoid misunderstandings in the future.
If the seller objects to a pre-purchase inspection, that can serve as a red flag and an indication that the vehicle may not be in as good a shape as the seller is saying. If the seller agrees to an inspection but prefers the car remain in their possession, you can bring your mechanic with you to the test drive or drive with the seller to the inspection garage.
2. Offer to Pay for the Inspection
It is very unlikely that you will be able to convince the seller of the vehicle to pay for the pre-purchase inspection, so offer to pay the costs up front.
If you are buying a car or truck that costs many thousands of dollars, paying a hundred dollars or so for a pre-purchase inspection is money well spent.
You will have to weigh the costs of the pre-purchase inspection against the selling price of the car.
It is important to negotiate the fee with the mechanic beforehand and determine whether or not the cost makes sense.
If you are buying an old beater for a couple hundred dollars, you may want to skip the inspection and take your chances
3. Test Drive the Vehicle First
It does not make sense to pay for a pre-purchase inspection on a vehicle you have no interest in buying.
Be sure to take the car or truck on a thorough test drive before you take it to the mechanic.
You can also give the car a good inspection on your own, without getting your mechanic involved.
Peer under the hood and look for leaks around the engine and oil filler compartment.
Pull the dipsticks and smell the oil and transmission fluid. Crawl under the car and look for oil leaks. You can spot a lot of potential problems even without a formal pre-purchase inspection.
4. Use Your Negotiating Power
If you do go ahead with the pre-purchase inspection, you can use the results of that examination when negotiating the price of the vehicle.
If your mechanic finds the car is in dire need of a tuneup, you can use that information to negotiate a lower price.
If the truck or SUV you have your eye on needs a new set of tires to pass inspection, you can price the cost of that new rubber and deduct it from the asking price.
The success of this technique will vary from seller to seller. If the seller has buyers lined up around the block, you probably will not have much negotiating power.
If the vehicle has already been on the market for some time, you may be able to get a lower price based on the results of your pre-purchase inspection.
Either way you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the true condition of the car you are buying.