How do I get an inspection done on a used car that I want to buy?
July 12, 2016 9:41 AM   Subscribe

I want to buy a used car, and I understand that I should have it examined by a reputable mechanic before making a deal. How does that actually work? I'm thinking of buying from a dealership, so I know I can get a test drive. Do I just tell them "I want to test drive this and take it to a mechanic?" or do I do that on the sly? How does one go about doing this? Thanks!
posted by mccxxiii to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do I just tell them "I want to test drive this and take it to a mechanic?"

Yep. If they have an issue with that, walk away.

But arrange it with the mechanic first.
posted by Etrigan at 9:44 AM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

You tell them that you want to have your mechanic perform a buyer's inspection. Then you make an appointment with your mechanic and have them do it. A good inspection is going to take some time, and cannot be done while you are supposedly on a test drive.
posted by jeffbarr at 9:44 AM on July 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

You tell them you want to take it to a mechanic. No one is just gonna give you the keys, they'll send someone along. It doesn't take long, your mechanic puts the car on the lift, checks the underside, looks under the hood, maybe plugs a code sniffer into the ODB port. It shows the seller that you're a serious buyer - you're willing to pay someone to look it over. With all that said it can be like a home inspection. You're now armed with some facts/opinions from another source, now you might be able to negotiate a sharper price based on what the mechanic finds.
posted by fixedgear at 9:45 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

You just tell them you want your mechanic to look it over. Nice dealerships will even offer to take it over there for you.

However if they balk at this, and some do, you no longer deal with them and start looking elsewhere. Hesitating on letting you do your homework on a car, should be a red flag of epic proportions.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:45 AM on July 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Mine took an hour and a half -- they took it out for a drive; it wasn't just a quick look-see. I was carless at the time; the saleslady drove it out to my house, a block away from my mechanics, and we had tea and discussed the financing at my dining room table while we were waiting. I'm guessing there might be a relatively wide variation on "normal procedure" for this. I'd just ask the dealer what their practices are for customers taking the potential purchase to their mechanic. Certainly you wouldn't do any business with a place that wouldn't let you do that, and there's no need to hide it. You don't want to hide it -- as fixedgear noted, they may find stuff that may put you in a position to bargain the price down.
posted by kmennie at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

The dealer may balk and offer to sell you a warranty.


Use a reputable mechanic who has expertise in the brand of car you're looking at.
posted by Thistledown at 10:25 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've done it. As others have said, simply say you want to have your own mechanic look at it. They will want to have someone with you. You will have to schedule this with both the seller and the inspection garage in advance.

(and I'm glad I did with my first car---it had an undisclosed previous collision. I still bought the car, but we had some discussions about the price after inspection.)

Also, regardless of whether you buy or not, be prepared to pay for the inspection. Dealers won't typically offer to pay for outside inspections.
posted by bonehead at 10:25 AM on July 12, 2016

I had a dealership let me borrow the car overnight so I could have my mechanic look at it the next morning. Dealers are usually very flexible, the more time you spend with the car to more you see it as "yours," so the inspection actually helps them close the sale. My mechanic did it for free because I'm a regular customer, however 1 hour of labor at a place where you aren't a regular is probably normal.
posted by COD at 1:15 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

My experience lately mirrors what others are saying.

Last year, my brother and I were in the market for a used sedan. We found one we liked and and informed the dealer we wanted inspected by our mechanic who was expecting it. The salesman squirmed a little, but eventually agreed to it. Red flags!

The dealer dropped off the car and picked it up from the mechanic. We've been taking our vehicles to the mechanic forever, so the inspection was free as a courtesy to us.

We ended up not getting the car.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:35 PM on July 12, 2016

For us, we picked out a car and test drove it. That night I found a mechanic. Called and made an appointment the next day for that morning. Went to the dealership and said I wanted to take it to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. They said "sure!". I had to sign a form so I'd be covered by their insurance and they photocopied my drivers license.

The inspection itself took about an hour. Make sure they pull all the info from the computer. Ours indicated some work that might need to be done in the future. I think the paper I signed said I'd be the only driver but the mechanic took the car out on the highway to see if there were any problems at high speeds. Everything they found was stuff we could live with/fix eventually for the price we'd negotiated so we bought the car.

Absolutely 1000% recommend getting an inspection before purchase.
posted by betsybetsy at 5:46 AM on July 13, 2016

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