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When is it okay to buy a used car without a mechanical inspection?
July 26, 2011 3:42 PM   Subscribe

When is it okay to buy a used car without a mechanical inspection?

I am thinking of buying a used 2010 Prius with less than 20,000 miles on the odometer. The vendor is some distance away. I would pick it up in person, but would like to finalize the price and the purchase before making the trip. Is a mechanical inspection necessary or even advisable, especially since the vehicle is still under warranty?
posted by registered to Shopping (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's OK to buy a used car without a mechanical inspection when the car costs less than an inspection would cost. Otherwise, get it inspected.
posted by buggzzee23 at 3:50 PM on July 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Get it inspected.

You're paying too much money to not have that piece of mind.

There are too many things not covered in the warranty.
posted by Murray M at 3:55 PM on July 26, 2011


BTW, it is possible for manufacturer warranties to be voided. How would you know if the car had been abused to the point of voiding a warranty without an inspection? I spent the better part of 3 decades working as a used car manager at new car dealerships and think buying any car (even new) sight unseen is pretty unwise.
posted by buggzzee23 at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think buggzzee23 is correct but I have purchased several low mileage cars, covered by the original warranty. without being concerned about the inspection. If I have a full warranty for 20,000--30,000 miles plus, a car I like and a price that is competitive I would probably go ahead and purchase it. I might be more concerned if it is a technology with which I am unfamiliar.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2011


Negotiate a price and sign an agreement with the seller, but make it subject to inspection by a mechanic of your choice. Then, ask the seller to drop off the car at a nearby mechanic (which you have chosen based on online reviews, etc.) and ask the mechanic to fax/email you a written report. It is useful to follow up by speaking to the mechanic by phone (so choose a small, independent shop). Ask if the mechanic would, hypothetically, buy the car themselves. Ask about the condition of the interior, etc. If the car checks out, then you can travel to pick it up, otherwise you can renegotiate based on needed repairs or back out entirely and you are only out $100 or so. I've done this before and found it worked well.
posted by ssg at 4:19 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about a mobile car inspection? They cost more, sure, but with the distance factor it can be handy. Carchex and AiM Mobile Inspectors are national chains that will send out inspectors to do a full vehicle inspection. You don't necessarily have to be present for the inspection and will get a full report. Expect a cost of $125-175 for their services.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:34 PM on July 26, 2011


Purchase without a mechanical inspection? Only if a. I know the seller, their driving & maintenance history VERY well (hi, mom!); b. the purchase price is, as buggzzee23 said, less than the cost of an inspection; or c. I received an iron-clad written-by-a-lawyer guarentee that the seller would cover the cost of any repairs over a set price incurred within, say, six months and/or would buy back the vehicle at a pre-agreed prorated price.

Just because its far away? Nope, not gonna happen.
posted by easily confused at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's OK to buy a used car without a mechanical inspection when the car costs less than an inspection would cost. Otherwise, get it inspected.

Unless you are capable enough of doing your own cursory inspection to a reasonable mechanical skill level. If you aren't, you're nuts to gamble like that. Especially with the sort of money a 2010 Prius would cost.
posted by Brockles at 4:56 PM on July 26, 2011


Strictly speaking, an inspection is only required if the vehicle is 10 years old or older (at least in my jurisdiction), but I would always get one unless I knew the seller personally or was buying from a reputable dealership (which, presumably, would already have done an inspection and have the paperwork to show me, anyway).
posted by asnider at 5:25 PM on July 26, 2011


It's ok to buy a used car without an inspection when you are confident that the car still is under warranty, and that you believe the seller about the condition. You then take the approximate amount of negative impact to your life (in terms of $) that would happen if one or both of those previous conditions were not true, and multiply that by the approximate % chance that would happen, and you have value A.

You then estimate how much money an inspection would cost, in terms of money, opportunity cost, and hassle (in terms of dollars), and you have value B.

When B>A You don't need an inspection.

You can see that things that will make B>A is having a very high value of time/ opportunity cost, and/or having a very high confidence in the seller.

I often use these calculations in everyday life and often end up chosing B>A.

FWIW I have bought many cars without inspection, and homes too. But I also often value my time at around $1000 an hour.
posted by Patrick Leo at 6:32 PM on July 26, 2011


It's OK to buy a used car without a mechanical inspection when the car costs less than an inspection would cost. Otherwise, get it inspected.


This is correct. (Brockles: If you could buy this car w/o an inspection for $100 -- or whatever an inspection costs -- would you? I would.)
posted by LonnieK at 7:00 PM on July 26, 2011


(Brockles: If you could buy this car w/o an inspection for $100 -- or whatever an inspection costs -- would you? I would.)

I hadn't given it any thought because not only do I have absolutely zero clue how much an inspection would cost, I also am pretty sure that I'd be ok with my own assessment of condition (which falls in the category above).

I'd happily buy an old snotter for $500, or even less, but I can't imagine anyone without any mechanical knowledge would consider something like that. Or even that they should consider it...
posted by Brockles at 8:20 PM on July 26, 2011


buggzzee23 writes "It's OK to buy a used car without a mechanical inspection when the car costs less than an inspection would cost. Otherwise, get it inspected."

I'd say that's a little extreme. IE: Don't drop $100 in inspection fees on a $500 car; the 20% increase in price isn't worth it. Just assume it needs significant work.
posted by Mitheral at 9:31 PM on July 26, 2011


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