How do I choose an inspector for a used car I'd like to buy?
February 18, 2014 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to buy a car in southwest michigan. I trust "my" mechanic in my town, but there's few cars here. Other towns, eg Grand Rapids and Lansing, have great cars, but I don't know any mechanics in those towns. By what logical process should I choose a mechanic to take potential cars to?

I'm looking at a 2008 Honda Civic. Should I take it to a dealer? I'm worried that the dealer will be biased, either in over- or under-estimating how much needs work and how much it costs(either to sucker in a customer, or prevent loosing a customer).

I'm also nervous about taking the car to the shop that the car is always taken to, next door to the owner's dad's house, because there might be a previous relationship.

I'm also nervous about taking it to just any shop, because what if they don't know about hondas as much as they should?

I think that probably one or two of my concerns are baseless. And there's always a level of uncertainty when buying a used car.

Please point out what are real concerns and what are silly fears, and tell me what I should do to get this car inspected!
posted by rebent to Shopping (10 answers total)
Check the Car Talk Mechanics Files for a list of well-vetted neutral mechanics.
posted by Etrigan at 9:19 AM on February 18, 2014

Use yelp or the mechanics ratings on Car Talk to find a reputable mechanic. Call them up and ask whether they have experience with Hondas and can take a look at a car you want to buy.

It is not a big hassle.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:20 AM on February 18, 2014

Seconding Etrigan and the Admiral - Car Talk PLUS cross-reference with Yelp reviews.

Also, if possible, relax a little and realize that there's only so much control you can exert. Buying a used car is a crapshoot. My boyfriend recently bought an ancient Jeep from some random dude on a whim and it has been AWESOME. Whereas I bought a Vibe from a legit dealer, had it inspected, did everything "right"... and still wound up replacing the entire powertrain within a year.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:24 AM on February 18, 2014

When I was doing this I called ahead at an independent mechanic that got good reviews on Yelp and said, "I'm going to be test driving a [car make/model/year] later today. I don't have a regular mechanic in your area, so could you look it over for me?" That worked well.

I would say look for someone who specializes in your type of car, but for a Honda Civic I don't think it's that big a deal.
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2014

What you want is a mechanic who will just tell what's wrong with the car, right? Find a Honda shop not next door, tell them what you're doing, and you'll be fine. You're just paying them for the inspection, not for service. What possible stake could they have in over- or under-estimating problems?
posted by LonnieK at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had good luck with getting a potential Honda purchase Honda looked at at a Honda dealer. They didn't particularly overestimate anything and they seemed like they had a pretty good routine check sequence that they were used to. Super professional all the way around. As LonnieK mentioned, they didn't particularly have a stake in it - it was a paid for inspection and they didn't have any reason to think they'd be servicing the car in the future.

FWIW, you're very unlikely to have much go wrong or be wrong with a 2008 Civic unless it's been horribly maltreated, if even then.
posted by ftm at 9:44 AM on February 18, 2014

Find a reputable mechanic. Arrange to see all the cars you might want on one day. Pay the mechanic for the day to come round with you and look at several cars.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:45 AM on February 18, 2014

you're very unlikely to have much go wrong or be wrong with a 2008 Civic unless it's been horribly maltreated, if even then.

OTOH, I used this logic when buying my last car (which is about the same age and a Toyota) from a dealership, and a few months later there are little maintenance things I didn't notice on the test drive which would have factored into my purchase.

If I could turn back time I definitely would have had this car inspected, even if only to knock a couple hundred dollars off the purchase price.
posted by Sara C. at 9:55 AM on February 18, 2014

I am not in your area, but I used a mobile inspection service. I felt confident that they weren't going to make up anything, because they had no vested interest. Their company doesn't do repairs at all, they *only* inspect. You might try to find something like that.
posted by HermitDog at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2014

Er, I should say, they had no vested interest other than in me as the customer, they weren't going to earn or lose money in the future based on what they told me.
posted by HermitDog at 10:20 AM on February 18, 2014

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